The impact of extreme weather on Asian agricultural commodities

01 February 2021 Peak Recruitment

The Hurricanes 1000

​From scorching heat in Europe and devastating forest fires in North America, through to torrential rain in South America, there’s little doubt that the unprecedented increase in extreme weather events are a cause for grave concern across the globe. The Asia-Pacific region is no exception and over recent years has suffered from a series of turbulent weather events. Whilst extreme weather can have a terrible impact upon communities, the effect on Asian agricultural commodities has proved to be particularly far-reaching.

The effect on agricultural output in key areas

Although some areas of China have had to endure the highest level of rainfall in just under 60 years, the Mekong, one of the largest river systems in Asia, is seeing the lowest ever water level. In addition, there are areas of southern India which are battling unremitting drought conditions. When extreme weather conditions strike, their impact upon food production can have an immediate and lasting impact.

Semi-arid and sub-humid regions appear to be the hardest hit and are likely to experience a reduction in crop yields, productivity levels and livestock. South Asia is home to many of these areas and is therefore exposed to the greatest threat of instability.

Indonesia and Malaysia are currently the world’s top producers of palm oil (this is something we touched upon in one of our previous insight articles) and recent months have been crucial in determining future output, as dryness levels in parts of Borneo are closely monitored. Rice production is also under threat as a result of dry weather on Java Island, whilst Indonesia has had to work hard to to prevent the reoccurrence of dense fog which covered large areas of South East Asia several years ago. Indonesia combatted the problem by deploying emergency response teams and thousands of firefighters in an effort to safeguard valuable rubber and palm oil producing regions.

Vietnam has been hit by heatwaves and drought over recent years and although only parts of the country have been affected, rice and rubber production has seen a negative impact. However, Vietnam’s central highlands where the majority of coffee is grown have escaped significant harm.

Thailand is one of the world’s largest exporters of rice and sugar, whilst the country is also the top grower of rubber. Some areas of Thailand have seen the worst drought for years, resulting in estimates for rice shipments and sugar cane output being slashed.

What can be done to protect agriculture and jobs from extreme weather?

Extreme weather events and climate change are having a huge impact upon the environment in many ways. Food production and agriculture in the Asia Pacific region have felt some of the worst impact and according to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), must be amongst the first in line to defend.

The Asia Pacific region has already earned an unwanted position as the world’s most disaster prone region and when extreme weather strikes, the effect on food production can be immediate and significant. With this in mind, the FAO is collaborating with countries in the region, alongside farmers, academics, private companies and wider society, to find ways to improve, adapt to and alleviate the impact of extreme weather.

In 2018, participants and development partners from 28 countries across the Asia-Pacific region met in Vietnam at a regional conference convened by the FAO. The aim of the conference was to map out a pathway for the agricultural sector’s implementation of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015. The Sendai Framework is the ‘roadmap for how we make our communities safer and more resilient to disasters’ and calls for putting disaster risk management at the centre of all development sectors. Not only is this crucial to reducing loses resulting from disasters, but also in adapting to climate change, whilst preventing and reducing risks.

Unfortunately, agriculture is extremely vulnerable to disasters and climate change simply intensifies these risks. However, risks are also increased by poorly planned development which results in increased pressure upon water and land resources, along with the degradation of ecosystems. Agriculture and food production are essential for many countries in the Asia-Pacific region; helping Vietnam, for example, weather regional and global economic storms.

Solutions are being introduced in a wide range of ways; from increases in research and extension spending and the optimisation of crop varieties resistant to climate change, to increasing the use of nitrogenous fertilisers and the application of public incentives aimed at increasing livestock and fish production. Adaptation is also key, with responsible and pre-planned strategies proving pivotal in mitigating the effects of extreme weather and climate change on Asia-Pacific food production. A range of measures are possible, including: improved management of floods and drought, better management of resources such as land and water, improved cooperation between regions and the provision of benefits from reduced greenhouse gas emissions.

New strategies, technologies and professional recruitment bring hope

Of course, in order to implement new measures, an embracing of new technologies will be vital to mitigate risk, find new strategies and reclaim degraded farm land. Recruitment of a professional workforce to help agriculture in the Asia-Pacific region is likely to prove pivotal as countries look for innovative ways to protect their vital agricultural commodities from the threats posed by extreme weather events and climate change.

Peak Recruitment is a highly experienced team of recruitment specialists to the Food & Beverage, Animal Agriculture and Crop Agribusiness markets in the Asia-Pacific region. The world has a relatively small talent pool in the Food and Agriculture sectors and as leading specialists in food industry recruitment in Thailand and throughout the Asia-Pacific region, we are well-positioned to place the best people in the right roles. If you are looking for advice and guidance on finding the perfect vacancy, we’d love to help.