Climate change threatens north Africa’s food supply

Increasingly frequent droughts in North Africa will force governments to import more food, placing their economies under severe strain unless global warming is checked, according to a UN climate expert.

Rising world temperatures will make such droughts more common, increasing dependence on large-scale, costly food imports in the region, Rajendra Pachauri, chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) told Reuters on Tuesday.

A dry spell in Morocco has reduced the country’s 2007 grain crop to an estimated 2 million tonnes — from 9.3 million last year — and the government is expected to triple its soft-wheat imports to 3 million tonnes.

"Grain stocks globally are at a precarious low," said Pachauri, "and if you look at the predicament of regions like this one, you really don’t have the kind of reserves to draw on if you want to import large quantities." He added: "They will have to pay heavily for this, and this could disturb the economies of the region."

In May, a report by the IPCC, agreed by scientists and officials from more than 100 countries, recommended sweeping cuts in greenhouse gas emissions to keep global warming in check. Looking at larger countries such as China, India and Brazil, Pachauri said, "clearly with the
decline in productivity there would be serious threats of undernourishment and actual famines in certain parts of world."

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