Extreme weather patterns wreaking havoc on many parts of the world could put the global farmer on the endangered species list, says an international agricultural expert.
Allan Parker offered the synopsis during the annual meeting of the P.E.I. Potato Board in Charlottetown Friday as he described the dismal situation of the Russian potato crop and the damage that savage weather can cause on an agricultural commodity.
“We see polar bears in some parts of the world on the endangered species list, but I’m afraid we’re going to see farmers make that list as well since they are on the front line of global warming,” said the president of Parker Potato Ltd., who is also a director of the DokaGene Group in Russia.
Parker said Russia — with the third-highest potato production in the world — has suffered a near-collapse of the industry after losing 60 per cent of its massive harvest. A nine-week drought and temperatures upwards of 35 degrees Celsius this past summer let the crop wither away.
He also said Ukraine — considered the breadbasket of Europe — suffered too much rain and extensive late blight in its potato crop.
“Some people call it global warming, I call it extreme weather,’’ he said. “But it is absolute nonsense for anyone to say it isn’t happening.”
Parker said he didn’t anticipate the same scope of agricultural disasters to affect Canadian farmers, but insisted droughts, hurricanes, floods and other natural elements are threatening food crops in many parts of the world and wiping out the livelihoods of many subsistence farmers.
“It’s making farming more like a lottery,’’ he said, noting the fastest-growing risk claims in the insurance industry are not fires anymore, but flooding and extreme weather events.
“Canada is well placed because of our current climate and the fact that we have water. On P.E.I., our weather has changed as well, but we may be lucky and fare out a little better.”
The harvest loss in Russia means the country needs to import 10 million tonnes of potato or three times the total Canadian production and Parker said P.E.I. — after one of the best crops in years — is well placed to help fill some of that need.