Chilli peppers, coffee, wine: how the climate crisis is causing food shortage

Sriracha lovers are passionate. Some Sriracha fans have even been known to tattoo the popular hot sauce on their bodies or dress up as red plastic squeeze bottles for Halloween.

It’s not surprising that a shortage would have loyalists scrambling for a way to avoid enduring a summer without the spice.

Huy Fong Foods of Southern California, which produces 20m bottles of Sriracha each year, has experienced a shortage of red jalapeno chili peppers over the past few years, made worse by the spring crop failure.

What is the cause? The severe weather conditions and drought conditions in Mexico.

Not just chili peppers. The extreme weather in France and Canada caused a 50% decrease in mustard seed production, resulting in a shortfall of condiments in grocery stores. Heat waves, stronger storms, fires, floods, and droughts, as well as changes in the pattern of rainfall, can also affect the price and availability of staples such as wheat, corn, and coffee. Climate change is increasing extreme weather events and their frequency. This puts food production in danger.

Carolyn Dimitri is a nutrition and food studies professor from NYU. She said that “almost everything we raise and grow in the US faces some kind of climatic stress.”

Wheat and other grains are especially vulnerable. The Great Plains, where the majority of US wheat is harvested, was hit by drought, which affected the winter crop. Winter wheat abandonment rates in the US are at their highest level since 2002. In Montana, flooding threatens grain crops.

Dimitri said: “This is important, because the US does not have a large surplus. It can’t contribute to filling the global wheat gap at this moment due to the Ukraine Crisis.”

The climate crisis impacts grain crops beyond the US. The wheat crop in India was damaged by a heatwave caused by temperatures that reached record levels throughout spring and summer. Delhi’s temperature of 120F was born in May. The government banned wheat exports. This drove up the price more than the increase that followed Russia’s invasion.

A 2021 NASA report revealed that climate change could have a serious impact on the global production and consumption of wheat and maize as early as 2030. Maize yields are estimated to drop by 24 percent.

Apples are also at risk. The apple harvest last year in Michigan and Wisconsin suffered from heavy spring frost. According to USDA, climate changes, like warming, can result in lower yields, slower growth, and a change in fruit fruit quality.

“Humans can be feisty creatures, so we still grow food, and the yields continue to increase, but the challenges become greater as temperatures rise,” said Ricky Robertson. He is a senior research fellow at the International Policy Research Institute for Food.

Extreme weather conditions can affect the price of coffee. Coffee prices rose 70% between April 2020 and December 20, 2021, after droughts and frosts destroyed Brazil’s coffee crops, the largest in the world. The economic impact could be significant, as it is estimated that up to 120 million people in the world depend on coffee production.

John Furlow, Director of the Columbia Climate School’s International Research Institute for Climate and Society(IRI), says coffee farmers in places such as Costa Rica and Jamaica cannot simply move to higher altitudes to respond to warming temperatures.

Furlow said, “Think of the mountain as a cone.” “As you go up, the area gets smaller. That’s a danger.”

Climate change will affect where cacao can be grown, and the availability of chocolate in West Africa is likely to decrease in the coming years.

The French wine industry suffered its lowest harvest in 1957 last year. Sales were estimated to have dropped by $2bn. A Champagne vine that produces 40,000-50,000 bottles per year made nothing in 2021 because of higher temperatures and heavy rainfall.

One Wine and Climate Change Institute.

Climate change and its unpredictable weather patterns will alter the wine map of the world. “Regions will disappear, and others will appear.”

California’s wildfires set records in 2020, and the air pollution was hazardous to large parts of the wine grape crop. Napa Valley winemakers have to take extreme actions to survive, and some vineyards will not.

Robertson compares the challenges of climate change to a musical chairs game, where growers have to adjust their production to cope with warmer temperatures and extreme weather.

He said, “You will have to find more land and work harder to grow your crops.” “The places which are less suitable for growing things are greater than new places where they can be moved.” Small producers will have a hard time figuring out their place in the musical chair.

 Our food system isn’t prepared for climate change anymore.

The food production industry is both a cause and a victim of the climate change crisis. To transform the food system, we will need to take a number of steps, such as increasing crop diversity, providing climate predictions for farmers worldwide, expanding conservation programs, and offering growers an insurance program that pays when an index, like rain or wind speed, falls above or beneath a threshold.

The Biden administration supports research into “Climate-Smart” Agriculture, an approach for managing cropland and forest, fisheries, and livestock, that attempts to address intersecting challenges such as climate change and food security.

In May, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said that extreme weather and climate-related disasters were driving factors in global hunger. He also stated that 1,7 billion people have been affected by climate change over the past decade.

Experts warn that unless we take action, we will see food prices increase, water availability decrease, and conflicts over water. This will affect primarily poorer countries and Americans with low incomes and strain everything from school meals to food aid programs.

Furlow said, “We are suffering in the US due to our inability to get sriracha.” “The farmers that produce those peppers don’t get that income – this is a little worse than eating a bland sandwich.”

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