No coffee, no bacon, no chocolate?

SARAH BERRY
Last updated 11:22 09/10/2012
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LAST ORDERS: Climate change-induced water shortages have resulted in decreased production of hops and barley used for beer making in Germany.
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Can you imagine a world with no chocolate, no coffee, no bacon and no beer? Climate change means some of our favourite foods may have to go on the endangered list.

PORK

Last week the UK's National Pig Association called for the world to "Save our bacon". As droughts in the US and Europe have raised feed prices, a global shortage of pigmeat is "now inevitable", said senior analyst with the British agriculture development board, Stephen Howarth. "The number of pigs on the ground next year is going to be lower ... North America, and Brazil and China [are] in even a worse state, so there are going to be shortages of pork on the global market as well."

While BLAT-lovers will be deeply distressed, the news may be welcome to the vegetarians of the world. They may not be so happy, however, about some of the other delicacies forecast to disappear from our plates. Between 1961 and 2009, the world's cropland grew by 12 per cent, but agricultural production expanded 150 per cent, thanks to a significant increase in yields of major crops, the UN reports. Unsustainable fishing and farming practices, along with climate change and land degradation, are putting more than just the pork supply under pressure. Chocolate, coffee and fish are just a few of the foods feeling the heat as well.

CHOCOLATE

The chocolate industry may be melting, and not in the strawberry-dipping, right kind of way. Over half of the world's chocolate comes from cocoa produced by smallholders in Ghana and Cote d'Ivoire. Yet a study by the International Centre for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) has found that rising temperatures in these countries could be catastrophic for this heat-sensitive crop.

Its cocoa report predicted a one-degree Celsius temperature rise by 2030, increasing to 2.3 degrees by 2050. This is enough to inhibit the development of cocoa pods, which could send yields crashing and prices soaring.

"There is no doubt that these findings are severe," said CIAT's Peter Laderach, the report's lead author. "But, preparation is the name of the game. There is a lot that farmers, governments, scientists and key players in the cocoa supply chains can do to help protect and improve cocoa production. But these measures need to be implemented very quickly."

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As a result of the report, producers are looking into improved irrigation systems as well as more heat-tolerant cocoa plant varieties. It's enough to leave us craving a good dose of cacao comfort.

HONEY

Pollinating honey bees are responsible for as much as one in every three mouthfuls we eat. As a result of environmental factors and exotic pests, the domesticated honey bee population has declined by an estimated 50 per cent in the last 50 years, National Geographic reports.

It's not just the golden nectar, of which we consume about 1.2 million tonnes globally each year, that is affected, but up to 35 other pollen-dependent food groups.

Honey is not the only sweet syrup that is at risk of pesky pests. Insect infestations and climate change are affecting the delicate constitution of the maple leaf and thus the maple syrup industry.

COFFEE

Global warming is threatening coffee crops in virtually every major coffee-producing region of the world, says the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCSUSA).

Last year, Jim Hanna, sustainability director of the world's biggest coffeehouse chain, Starbucks, expressed concern that climate change would mean their lattes could go from jumbo to Jurassic.

"What we are really seeing as a company as we look 10, 20, 30 years down the road, if conditions continue as they are, is a potentially significant risk to our supply chain, which is the arabica coffee bean," Hanna told The Guardian last year.

The arabica bean, which is the sweeter cousin to the bitter bean robusta, accounts for up to 80 per cent of the world's coffee supply.

The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCSUSA) is urging world leaders to "wake up and smell the coffee" by taking action against global warming.

FISH

According to the Sustainable Seafood Guide, up to 80 per cent of the world's fish stocks are now over-exploited or fished to their very limit. While over-fishing has predominantly affected larger, more predatory species, meaning small fish species have flourished, the increase is not enough to meet human consumption. "We may in fact have hit peak fish at the same time we are hitting peak oil," said Reg Watson, a scientist at the University of British Columbia.

On the bright side, the sustainable seafood guide offers a tool to help you make informed seafood choices and play a part in swelling the tide for sustainable seafood in Australia.

BEER

Germany's beer-brewing culture has been looking more brauereisterben ("brewery death") than Oktoberfest of late. Water is essential for growing hops and barley, the crops that strict beer-brewing protocols in Germany demand, yet climate change-induced water shortages have resulted in decreased production.

German brewing dropped to less than 100 million hectolitres of production for the first time since 1990, it has been reported.

However, there is a frothy lining around these forbidding figures; in 2009 The European Union funded a major $9 million irrigation system for farmers in Germany so the hops crops can survive drier summers.

If there is a silver lining to the growing list of threatened foods - pasta, peanut butter and Vietnamese rice - it is the reaction of leaders and governments, says the International Centre for Tropical Agriculture, which praises leaders for being "shaken from complacency after years of neglecting agricultural development". Whether they will also be shaken to act fast on climate change and cultivating sustainable practices remains to be seen.

- Sydney Morning Herald

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