The Impact of Natural Disasters on Global Agriculture: A Costly Crisis

UN report reveals the staggering economic losses and agricultural impact of natural disasters

Natural disasters have become increasingly frequent and devastating in recent decades, posing a significant threat to global agriculture and food security. According to a new report released by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the economic losses caused by disasters have amounted to an estimated €3.6 trillion over the past 30 years. This staggering figure corresponds to an average annual loss of €117 billion or 5% of the global agricultural gross domestic product (GDP). The report highlights the urgent need for improved data and information on the impact of disasters and emphasizes the vulnerability of the agricultural sector to these events.

The Exposed and Vulnerable Sector:

Agriculture, heavily reliant on natural resources and climate conditions, is one of the most exposed and vulnerable sectors when it comes to disaster risk. Recurrent disasters have the potential to undermine food security and the sustainability of agrifood systems. FAO Director-General QU Dongyu emphasizes the importance of proactively addressing risks in agrifood systems and integrating disaster risk management into agricultural practices and policies.

Losses by Product Groups:

The FAO report reveals that losses related to major agricultural products have been on the rise. Cereal losses have averaged 69 million tonnes per year over the past three decades, equivalent to the entire cereal production of France in 2021. Fruits and vegetables, as well as sugar crops, have also suffered significant losses, with each approaching an average of 40 million tonnes per year. Meats, dairy products, and eggs have experienced an estimated average loss of 16 million tonnes per year.

Regional Differences:

While global losses are significant, there are notable variations across regions, subregions, and country groups. Asia has experienced the largest share of economic losses, followed by Africa, Europe, and the Americas. However, the economic losses in Asia accounted for only 4% of the agricultural added value, compared to nearly 8% in Africa.

The FAO report highlights the alarming impact of natural disasters on global agriculture, with economic losses reaching unprecedented levels. The vulnerability of the agricultural sector to these events underscores the urgent need for improved data and information systems to inform effective action. As the frequency of natural disasters continues to rise, it is crucial for policymakers, farmers, and stakeholders to prioritize disaster risk management and resilience-building measures in order to safeguard global food security and the sustainability of agrifood systems.