Climate Change Threatens Central American Corn Crop, Study Says

Climate change will cut the value of corn and bean production in Central America by about 30 percent, or $125 million a year, by 2029 as farmers may no longer be able to grow food in some areas, according to a study funded by the Howard G. Buffett Foundation.

Average temperatures in Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala will increase by 1 degree Celsius (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit) by the end of the 2020s, according to the study released today by the Buffett Foundation, Catholic Relief Services and two food-research institutes established by the United Nations. Warmer temperatures will be accompanied by less rain and faster evaporation, the report said.

“Climate change could transform the agricultural landscape across Central America,” Anton Eitzinger, a climate scientist at the International Center for Tropical Agriculture and a lead author of the report, said in an accompanying statement. “It’s one of the poorest and most vulnerable parts of Latin America.”

August was the 330th consecutive month in which temperatures worldwide topped the 20th-century average, the U.S. National Climatic Data Center said last month. Corn, the most- valuable U.S. crop, rose 68 percent to a record $8.49 a bushel between June 15 and Aug. 10 on prospects that the country’s worst drought since the 1950s would tighten global supplies.

In the study, researchers used global and regional climate models to forecast impacts on a local scale, mapping how different areas would be affected. Corn, Central America’s staple crop, may suffer from a longer dry season that would affect September planting, with more-severe downpours during the rainier months of October and November potentially damaging crops.

Some areas, such as the west-central highlands of Guatemala, may benefit from weather that makes corn and bean production more suitable. Overall, 1 million farmers and their families may be affected, the study said. Better irrigation and training in soil and water management will be necessary to reduce harmful effects, the groups said.

“There is no quick fix,” said Paul Hicks, a regional coordinate for Catholic Relief Services, based in Baltimore.

Howard Buffett is the son of Warren Buffett, the chief executive officer of Berkshire Hathaway Inc. (BRK/A)

To contact the reporter on this story: Alan Bjerga in Washington at abjerga@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jon Morgan at jmorgan97@bloomberg.net

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