Africa to bear brunt of climate change

Will Green is news editor of Supply Management
19 December 2016

Sub-Saharan Africa is the region most vulnerable to economic shocks caused by climate change, according to a report.

Verisk Maplecroft’s Climate Change Exposure Index (CCEI) found changing weather patterns across the region over the next three decades were a threat to growing conditions and yields of “economically vital exports of agri-commodities”.

The region is home to 17 of the 20 countries identified as most reliant on agriculture, which contributes more than $650bn to the economies of East, West and Central Africa.

While Central America faces the greatest physical threats from climate change, Africa economies are most at risk.

“Agriculture represents over 30% of national GDP in many African countries, including Sierra Leone, Liberia, Central African Republic, Guinea-Bissau, Burundi and Rwanda, all of which are rated ‘extreme risk’ in the CCEI,” said Verisk Maplecroft.

“Africa remains the region set to bear the economic brunt from the impacts on agriculture.”

Tea exports are worth $1.2bn a year to Kenya, making up 22% of total exports, while cashew nuts in Guinea-Bissau net the country $180m (72% of exports). For Mali cotton is the biggest export, worth $370m (43%), and tobacco exports for Malawi bring in $560m (47%). Coffee is the biggest export for Ethiopia, worth $800m (19%).

“Fluctuations in output would have significant implications for local and regional economies and the millions of smallholder farmers reliant on these crops, in addition to creating significant sourcing challenges for western food and beverage retailers,” said Verisk Maplecroft.

The CCEI uses climate data to assess 185 countries on their exposure to climate change risk.

Droughts in Vietnam and Brazil, which account for almost a third of global coffee exports, have raised prices by 20%, while a significant proportion of other key commodities are produced in countries considered high or extreme risk in the CCEI. These include sugar (63% of global production), palm oil (99%), cassava (90%) and bananas (56%).

Richard Hewston, principal environmental analyst at Verisk Maplecroft, said: “For the agricultural sector, successfully adapting to climate change requires robust data on how weather patterns will change, crop diversification and improvements in water management practices.

“With developed countries committing to a climate fund of $100bn a year from 2020, proactive companies can facilitate adaptation at the local level, while simultaneously building resilience in their supply chains.”

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