Disasters cost agriculture €3.6 trillion over 30 years


A UN agency report says the frequency of natural disasters has quadrupled since the 1970s

Over the last 30 years, an estimated €3.6 trillion worth of crops and livestock production has been lost due to disaster events, corresponding to an average loss of €117 billion per year or 5% of annual global agricultural gross domestic product (GDP), according to a new report released today by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).


A new FAO report entitled “The impact of disasters on agriculture and food security” brings the first-ever global estimation of the impact of disasters on agricultural production focused on crops and livestock. 


It also notes that the figure may be higher if systematic data on losses in the fisheries and aquaculture and forestry subsectors were available. The report stresses the need for urgently improving data and information on the impact of disasters on all subsectors of agriculture to create data systems that can serve as the foundation upon which effective action can be built and informed.


Exposed and vulnerable sector


“Agriculture is one of the most highly exposed and vulnerable sectors in the context of disaster risk, given its profound dependence on natural resources and climate conditions. Recurrent disasters have the potential to erode gains in food security and undermine the sustainability of agrifood systems,” said FAO Director-General QU Dongyu in the foreword to the report. “Leveraging FAO’s technical expertise, this publication showcases opportunities to proactively address risks in agrifood systems while demonstrating ways to mainstream disaster risk management into agricultural practices and policies.”


The report reveals that over the last three decades, disasters – defined as serious disruptions to the functioning of a community or society – inflicted the highest relative losses on lower and lower middle-income countries, up to 15% of their total agricultural GDP. Disasters also had a significant impact on Small Island Developing States (SIDS), causing them to lose nearly 7% of their agricultural GDP.


Losses by product groups


The report also indicates that losses related to major agricultural products are showing increasing trends. Thus, losses in cereals amounted to an average of 69 million tonnes per year in the last three decades – corresponding to the entire cereal production of France in 2021 - followed by fruits and vegetables and sugar crops, with each approaching average losses of 40 million tonnes per year. For fruits and vegetables, losses corresponded to the entire production of fruits and vegetables in Japan and Viet Nam in 2021.


Meats, dairy products and eggs showed an average estimated loss of 16 million tonnes per year, corresponding to the whole production of meats, dairy products and eggs in Mexico and India in 2021.


Regional differences


Global losses mask significant variability across regions, subregions and country groups. According to the report, Asia experienced by far the largest share of the total economic losses. Africa, Europe and the Americas also displayed a similar order of magnitude. However, losses in Asia only accounted for 4% of the agricultural added value, while in Africa they corresponded to nearly 8%.


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