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Food-Price Jumps May Get Larger on Weather, Oxfam Says

Food-Price Jumps May Get Larger on Extreme Weather, Oxfam Says
Field corn plants with wilted and dying leaves stand in a dry field in Idaville, Indiana, on July 6, 2012.Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg

Jumps in food prices may be larger in the future as extreme weather events linked to climate change affect production, charity Oxfam International said.

The impact of climate change on food prices may have been underestimated because most studies focus on how long-term temperature and rainfall changes affect farming, ignoring extreme events, Oxfam said today in a report.

“Extreme weather events in a single year could bring about price spikes of comparable magnitude to two decades of long-run price rises,” Oxfam said today in a report, citing a study conducted for the charity by Dirk Willenbockel of the Institute of Development Studies in the U.K.

Willenbockel used a model to simulate how export and domestic prices for food commodities could be affected by extreme weather in 2030 in sub-Saharan Africa and the main export regions for rice, corn and wheat, according to Oxfam.

A drought in North America in 2030 similar to the one in 1988 may increase export prices for corn by about 140 percent and world wheat prices by about 33 percent, according to the study. Simultaneous poor rice harvests in India and Southeast Asia may lift global average export prices for processed rice by 25 percent, Oxfam said.

For East Africa and West Africa, drought on a similar scale as that experienced in 1992 may lift average corn prices for consumers in the region by 50 percent, the study showed. A “bad” harvest year in South America, with droughts and flooding similar to 1990, may could lift world corn prices by 12 percent, Oxfam said.

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