Climate change hits farmers: harvests are “increasingly becoming a lottery game”

Climate change hits farmers
Harvesting is ‘becoming more and more like a lottery game’

This year’s grain harvest is below the long-term average. But in view of the freak weather one can be satisfied, said Minister Özdemir. In the meantime, however, the department head has no good news for consumers on the price front.

According to Agriculture Minister Cem Özdemir, German farmers are increasingly exposed to the consequences of climate crises. Agriculture has always been an outdoor economy and the farms can deal with weather fluctuations. “But the new normal looks different: Extreme weather as a result of the climate crisis is increasingly making our harvests a lottery game,” said the Green politician when the first harvest data was presented.

All in all, however, the industry can be satisfied with the yield in barns and silos, the department head continued. According to the first data, 38 million tons of grain (excluding grain corn) should come in – 4.1 percent less than last year and 2.1 percent less than the multi-year average. The multi-year comparison was only exceeded in the three federal states of North Rhine-Westphalia, Saxony-Anhalt and Saxony. Saarland, Brandenburg and Hesse recorded the sharpest decline.

Farmers have done great things in the past few weeks and have ensured that the storage facilities in Germany are well filled – although the farms have had to struggle with sometimes enormous weather challenges, depending on the region and crop, said Özdemir. The farmers’ association recently described the 2023 harvest as a “real nail-biter” and also reported a decline in grain quantities in a preliminary balance sheet.

A wet spring was followed by a long period of drought in May and June, and the harvest was then often interrupted by rain. In view of the clearly noticeable effects of climate change, everything must be done to be able to secure yields and food, the association emphasized. These included more resilient plants, a wide range of active crop protection agents and water-saving tillage. Özdemir said it was important to make agriculture climate-proof. Anyone who believes that climate protection and climate change adaptation can be started later is not representing the interests of the industry.

Groceries are price drivers

The Nature Conservation Union (NABU) explained that this year’s rainy summer shows the other face of the climate crisis, which poses challenges to food production. It is all the more important to use agricultural land in an environmentally friendly manner and thus make it more resistant to drought and heavy rain, for example with humus-rich soil and flowering strips.

Looking at the costs for consumers, Özdemir said food prices remained a driver of inflation. According to the ministry, prices for agricultural products have returned to normal. However, the costs of operating resources such as diesel, fertilizer and pesticides remained above the pre-war level. The higher costs along the value chain, in turn, make food more expensive for consumers.

The industry is therefore being supported in making itself less dependent on synthetic fertilizers or pesticides, the minister said. “Investing in climate-proof agriculture makes us less dependent on volatile world markets and makes more sense and is cheaper than compensating for damage.”

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