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Government officials concerned after research uncovers cause of failing food production trend — here's what they found

The year's trends were affected by adverse weather conditions at different times of the year.

The year's trends were affected by adverse weather conditions at different times of the year.

Photo Credit: iStock

Climate change poses significant challenges to agriculture, and government officials in Italy are growing concerned over dwindling food production.

What's happening?

As explained by Reuters earlier this month, Italy's national statistics bureau, ISTAT, said that agricultural production shrank in 2023 as "wine, fruit and olive oil output all took a hit from extreme weather events linked to climate change."

To make matters worse, the scorching temperatures across Europe don't appear to be going anywhere any time soon. Last year was reported to be the hottest summer Europe has experienced in 2,000 years, and Reuters noted that parts of the continent have already had temperatures as high as 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) in June. The ever-changing climate has had damaging effects on some of Italy's biggest exports.

ISTAT found that Italian farms suffered a 3.9% decrease in production volume last year. Wine production dropped by over 17% because of hot temperatures extending from summer into fall, while olive oil production suffered from cool temperatures extending into spring. Extreme weather events such as hail storms and spring frosts are hindering fruit production, while crops and livestock are being killed off by drought, Reuters noted.

"The year's trends were affected by adverse weather conditions at different times of the year, with a succession of extreme events affecting many crops of primary importance," ISTAT said in a statement, per Reuters.

Why is this important?

Italy isn't alone in dealing with the effects of climate change on the food industry. Rising temperatures are affecting agriculture and food prices globally, increasing the cost of essential food items and potentially making it harder for people to eat healthily. Experts predicted that rising temperatures will increase food prices by up to 3.2% every year, adding a substantial amount to a family's annual grocery bill.

The International Trade Administration describes Italy as "one of the largest agricultural producers and food processors" in Europe, with the country's "agricultural sector accounting for about 2% of GDP." The nation produces a wide variety of exports, such as grains, soybeans, meat, and dairy products in the north and fruits, vegetables, olive oil, wine, and durum wheat in the south. It ITA also noted that 6% of the Italian population is employed in agriculture.

Extreme heat can lead to droughts, and reduced rainfall damages crops, affecting farmers' incomes. These issues could make it harder for people to eat healthily and affordably.

What's being done about this?

While the weather isn't something that any human can control, Italian farmers aren't remaining quiet about the challenges they are facing. 

Reuters noted that they joined protests across the European Union earlier this year "to oppose low prices for produce, rising costs, cheap imports and EU measures aimed at more sustainable agriculture." With agriculture being one of the world's most polluting sectors, the latter is important to reduce global emissions, but farmers need support to invest in appropriate technology.

Everyone can help reduce the overall heating of the planet by cutting our reliance on costly dirty fuels such as gas and coal and switching to cleaner forms of energy such as wind and solar.

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