In recent weeks we have witnessed the heavy cold spell which has hit the northern hemisphere. As several countries such as India and North Korea, as well as Germany, the United Kingdom and France are experiencing record snowfall, the consequences for agriculture are severe. Fruit and vegetables are frozen on the spot, while milk collection is rendered impossible, particularly in Brittany where minor roads are impassable. In Miami, where temperatures fell to 0°C, the impact on citrus fruit production has caused a surge in orange juice prices on financial markets: the most traded contract for delivery in March was close to $1.50 a pound on Wednesday 6th January, more than 15% compared to prices for the previous week.
This situation is as worrying as it is interesting for several reasons. This time, agriculture is not the only sector to be affected by unusual weather conditions. Many newspapers are concerned about its impact on the economy: disrupted transport on roads, suspended air traffic, delayed deliveries, production line interruption due to undelivered parts, interrupted construction projects – the is no lack of examples of economic disruption.
But if the disruption is exceptional for the secondary and tertiary economic sectors, it is nothing new to agriculture, which has always had to cope with hazardous weather conditions. Climate risk is an integral part of the agricultural sector, whereas other sectors only suffer under exceptional circumstances. If industry had to deal with climate risk on a regular basis, the disruption it caused would rapidly become unmanageable ... It is time to take into consideration the climate risks faced by the agricultural sector and the current, exceptional circumstances give some perspective.