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Indonesia turns ASEAN focus to food, energy security

Climate change driving up food costs
Washington (UPI) May 6, 2011 - Global climate change has already taken a toll on the world's food production, driving up the price of food by as much as 20 percent, a new study indicates. The study, published Thursday in the journal Science, examined how rising temperatures has affected the world's major food crops: corn, wheat, rice and soybeans. To estimate the economic impact of the changes in crop yield, the researchers used models of commodity markets. "We found that since 1980, the effects of climate change on crop yields have caused an increase of approximately 20 percent in global market prices," said Wolfram Schlenker, an economist at Columbia University and a co-author of the paper.

The researchers said that global wheat production was 5.5 percent lower than it would have been had the climate remained stable. While global corn production was lower by nearly 4 percent, global rice and soybean production weren't significantly affected. Relative to what yields might have been with no global warming, Russia, India and France experienced the greatest drops in wheat production, the study shows. China and Brazil suffered the largest comparative losses in corn production. But the United States, Canada and northern Mexico have so far, for the most part, dodged the impacts of climate change.

"It appears as if farmers in North America got a pass on the first round of global warming," said David Lobell, an assistant professor of environmental Earth system science at Stanford University and an author of the report, in a statement. Based on the predicted rates of global temperature rise over the next two to three decades, however, Lobell said it is unlikely the United States will continue to remain unscathed. "The climate science is still unclear about why summers in the Corn Belt haven't been warming. But most explanations suggest that warming in the future is just as likely there as elsewhere in the world," Lobell said.

The United States is the world's largest producer of soybeans and corn, accounting for about 40 percent of global production. The study's release Thursday also comes as the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization reported that global corn prices doubled from April 2010 to April 2011. Lobell said the study shows that climate change is "not just about the future, but that it is affecting agriculture now." He suggested that more heat- and drought-tolerant crops be developed to withstand the changes.
by Staff Writers
Jakarta (AFP) May 7, 2011
Indonesia on Saturday warned fellow Southeast Asian states that rising food and energy prices could drive more people into poverty and urged coordinated action to fight inflation.

Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said at the start of the annual Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit that the regional bloc must take steps to ease the surge in consumer prices.

"We must give serious attention and take concrete measures to address the soaring of food prices and world energy, which in turn will negatively affect the prosperity of our people," he said in his opening speech.

"History shows that the rise of food and energy prices... has always caused the increase in the number of people living in poverty, yet we know very well that decreasing the poverty level is not an easy task."

Oil prices soared to their highest peaks in more than two years last month, driven largely by political turmoil in the crude-producing Middle East and North Africa region.

The increase has sparked fears that inflation could slow down the recovery from the global recession in 2008/2009.

ASEAN groups 10 disparate nations from oil-rich Brunei and high-tech Singapore to impoverished Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar, as well as major rice producers Thailand and Vietnam and rice-importers like the Philippines.

Indonesia and Malaysia round up ASEAN's 10 members.

Commodities prices including oil and gold took a hammering on US markets Thursday due to a higher US dollar and the reweighing of risk by institutional investors, but analysts expect the upward price trend to resume.

On the same day, the United Nations said high food and oil prices could keep an additional 42 million people in poverty in the Asia-Pacific region and threaten economic growth.

The International Monetary Fund warned in a report last month that rising food and energy prices could start an inflationary spiral.

The impact would be especially bad in the developing world where households spend larger shares of their incomes on food and energy compared to those in advanced economies.

Several ASEAN members have already raised interest rates as part of efforts to fight inflation, at the risk of slowing down economic growth in a region that led the world out of the global financial crisis.

In his speech, Yudhoyono called for the establishment of an integrated food security framework in ASEAN.

"More specifically, we must attend to the formulation of a food reserves system in ASEAN and also one that assists farmers to escape poverty," he said.

To enhance energy security, members must work towards developing renewable sources that are abundant in ASEAN such as hydro-power and geothermal, he said.

"One way to achieve that is the development of research centres and renewable energy in our region," he added.

The Indonesian leader also called for further cooperation in disaster management, citing the giant earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan in March which also damaged a nuclear power plant and triggered an atomic crisis.

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Study: Global warming reduced corn, wheat harvests
Washington (AFP) May 6, 2011
Climate change has stunted the worldwide increase in corn and wheat yields since 1980 by 3.8 and 5.5 percent respectively, according to a new study in the journal Science. Without global warming, total harvests of both crops would have been significantly larger than they were, the statistical analysis found. The shortfall equals the annual yield of corn in Mexico, some 23 metric tonnes, ... read more

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