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Extreme weather impacts European agriculture, hitting food supply chains

The frequency of extreme weather events in Europe, including the UK, has seen a significant rise, with occurrences increasing by nearly 50% over the last two years. This escalation has profound implications for agriculture across the continent. The UK's farming sector, already grappling with the challenges posed by these climatic changes, faces an uncertain future. Scottish agriculture, for instance, suffered losses exceeding £161 million in 2018 due to adverse weather conditions. This trend underscores the urgent need for the sector to adapt to the changing climate.

A recent study by Inverto, a Boston Consulting Group company, highlights the growing crisis, revealing a 48% increase in extreme weather events from the year leading to February 2022 to the year leading to February 2024. The study also noted a 72% increase in large hailstorms during the same period. Katharina Erfort, a principal at Inverto, emphasizes the importance of businesses preparing for future disruptions through robust risk management and diversification of supply sources.

Extreme weather not only disrupts food supply chains but also affects food production in Europe and globally, leading to shortages and price spikes. For example, a single hailstorm caused €40 million worth of damage to crops in Spain's Valencia region. Italy, responsible for half of the EU's rice production, faced a significant shortfall in 2023 due to droughts and flooding, affecting potato production across Northern Europe as well.

Erfort suggests that growers explore methods to mitigate the impact of weather events, such as advanced harvesting and the use of protective materials like hail resistant nets or poly tunnels. These measures are critical in ensuring the resilience of food supplies against the backdrop of increasingly unpredictable global weather patterns.


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