Heritage food brands under threat

Posted by Flux on 

13 March 2024

What’s trending?

Climate change is changing the nature of heritage crops around the world. Egyptian farmers are finding that their crops are being damaged by excess salinity in the Nile Delta, made worse by climate change. One farmer was forced to stop growing tomatoes and has switched to rice instead. Extreme weather has cut Spain’s output of olive oil by a fifth, also ravaging corn in Romania, rice in Italy, beans in Belgium, and beets and garlic in France. In the French Bordeaux region, the sugar content of grapes is changing. Earlier ripening and harvesting along with  increased water-related stress is affecting the quality of wine. “Bordeaux and particularly the Left Bank of Bordeaux [are] having a lot of trouble because of climate change,” said Gabriella M. Petrick, a food historian. She notes that winemakers might have to resort to technical fixes, by removing alcohol for instance or by changing the mix of grape varieties to optimise flavour profiles. South African wine farmers are also having to switch cultivars. Global warming has not only shifted the growing season, but has altered the grapes’ sugar content, forcing farmers to grow warmer-climate wine varieties, like cabernet sauvignon, instead of cooler-climate varieties, like chardonnay. 

Why is it important?

Climate change threatens economies reliant on agricultural produce, especially those that are one-crop economies. Changing climatic conditions will force some farmers – the fortunate ones – to repurpose their land for alternative crops, while the less fortunate will lose their livelihoods. Consumers will find that their favourite food products may have a different taste in the near term and could be discontinued in the medium to long term. There will be a rise in more heat-resistant crops and the more temperature-sensitive ones will become more expensive.  In Spain, supermarkets are already locking up bottles of olive oil as prices surge and theft increases.

What can businesses and policymakers do about it?

Policymakers should offer assistance to struggling farmers. The French government, for example, is planning to spend millions to assist winemakers to uproot crops, allowing them to repurpose land for other activities. Businesses in the agricultural sector should pay close attention to the impact that climate change has, and will continue to have on crops and prepare accordingly. They should use affected land to produce more drought-resistant or heat-tolerant crops. Night time harvesting is another option to combat the heat. Efficient irrigation methods, such as drip or precision irrigation should be implemented, and water-saving technologies invested in. It is advisable to plant a diversity of crops to accommodate different weather conditions. Sensors, drones, and satellite imagery technologies should be employed to monitor crop health, optimise water usage, and predict weather patterns for better decision-making. Weather forecasting and early warning systems should be used to anticipate climate-related risks in order for farmers to take preventive measures in advance. Farmers should be educated on crop insurance and risk management tools to mitigate financial losses caused by climate-related events.

By Flux Trends 

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Image credit: Bogomil Mihaylov

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