Europe needs to reshape its agricultural sector, the European Environmental Agency (EEA) warned on Wednesday, as climate change could halve production of cereals in southern Europe pushing food prices higher.
Extreme weather events such as the heatwaves Europe experienced this summer have resulted in huge economic losses for farmers in the European Union which look set to continue, the EEA report states.
“New records are being set around the world due to climate change and the adverse effects of this change are already affecting agricultural production in Europe, especially in the south,” EEA Executive Director Hans Bruyninckx said in a new report.
Projections using a high-end emission scenario estimate that yields of crops like wheat, corn and sugar beet could decrease by up to 50% in southern Europe by 2050.
This would result in a substantial loss of income for farmers in the affected areas and also lead to a massive 80% decrease in the value of farmland by 2100.
The loss of food production will be somewhat, but not completely, offset by longer growing seasons in the north of the continent, the report says, adding that “while food security is not under threat in the EU, increased food demand worldwide could exert pressure on food prices in the coming decades.”
The report highlights that most of the EEA member countries already have national adaptation strategies in place but stresses that they are rarely implemented at farm level due to a lack of financing, access to know-how and policy support to adapt.
It calls for the bloc to introduce adapted crops, improved irrigation techniques and precision farming — enabled by drone and satellite technology.
The agricultural sector accounts for 10% of all greenhouse gases in the EU and these techniques should work towards reducing that number but more will need to be done in particular at the consumer level, the EEA flags.
“Consumer behaviour will also need to change. Changing diets, like eating less meat and reducing food waste would contribute to additional reductions,” it writes.