ROME, April 26 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Water scarcity
half a world away caused by climate change could push up prices
for meat and diary products in Europe by disrupting supplies of
soybean, which is widely used as feed for livestock, researchers
The European Union sources most soybean from outside the
28-nation bloc - mainly from Argentina, Brazil and the United
States, according to an EU-funded study by Dutch-based NGO Water
Footprint Network (WFN).
But 57 percent of soybean imports are from regions that are
highly vulnerable to water scarcity, exposing Europe to possible
shocks in supply, said Ertug Ercin, the study's co-author.
"The highest risk that the European meat and dairy sector
will face due to climate change and weather extremes lies
outside its borders," he said in a statement.
About two thirds of the global population already live in
areas experiencing water scarcity at least one month a year,
according to the United Nations.
The problem is set to intensify with global warming, which
is expected to affect rain patterns and cause more frequent
droughts, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) says.
Water in soybean farming areas could become insufficient
leading to lower production and higher prices, which would push
up costs of meat and dairy products in Europe, Ercin said.
Imports of other products like rice, sugar cane, cotton,
almonds, pistachios and grapes could be similarly affected,
according to the report.
"The EU's economy is dependent on the availability of water
in other parts of the world for many crops," said Christopher
Briggs, WFN executive director. "That makes it vulnerable to
increasing water scarcity and drought."
(Reporting by Umberto Bacchi @UmbertoBacchi, Editing by Ros
Russell.; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the
charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian
news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights, climate
change and resilience. Visit news.trust.org)