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Study: Future impact of climate change in Belgium and how it will effect the potato industry

The study “Evaluation of the socio-economic impact of climate change in Belgium”, commissioned by the National Climate Commission, has just been published.

According to the authors of the report, global climate change in Belgium will mainly be felt through heat waves, floods and droughts. Warmer and drier summers, and milder and wetter winters are becoming the ‘new normal’.

The authors of the report states that in recent years Belgium has experienced persistently mild winters, recurring drought episodes and a succession of hot summers, culminating in the unprecedented temperature extremes recorded during the summer of 2019.

The impact of climate change will affect a large number of sectors, according to the report – resulting in major costs but also benefits, with costs dominating strongly. By 2050, in years with unfavourable weather conditions, crop yields could drop well below recently (1981-2010) observed minimum levels (decrease by 35%), especially for potato and maize. For poultry, cattle and pig production, production losses up to 2-5% are likely.

As for potatoes and specifically fries, the authors of the report points out that 88% of Belgians eat potato fries at least once a week. Belgium is also the largest exporter of pre-cooked frozen potato products, with exports to more than 150 countries.

The increasing impact of drought on potato cultivation is a main concern for the potato fry industry, according to the authors of the report. They say the drought episode occurring in 2018 having caused a potato shortage and subsequent price increase by 23%. The industry is now reacting by shifting towards potato varieties that are more resistant to heat and water stress.

The processing and storage of potato fries are also affected by climate change. The processing requires copious amounts of water, which may become a problem given the adverse impact of climate change on freshwater resources. Increasing temperatures will increase the cooling temperature energy requirements for storage.

A 12 page summary of the report can be viewed here in English. (The summary is also available in French and Dutch).
The full report can be accessed here
Cover image: SciTechDaily

Lukie Pieterse, Editor and Publisher of Potato News Today

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