Climate Change And Tropical Fruits: Challenge And Opportunity

With climate change producing more severe weather events, the world's producers of tropical fruits are going to have to adapt. Fortunately, some regions are naturally protected.

Viola Manisa
Verified writer
August 22, 2023

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As record temperatures persist across many parts of the world, there’s one question that we’re getting more often than ever: how will climate change affect the product categories that Farmfolio works with?

It’s a very pertinent and very complex question. Effects will vary by product category and by region, but one thing is extremely clear: production will become more difficult and costly in many parts of the world. From the severity of droughts to the frequency of severe weather events like hurricanes and floods, growing conditions in many of the world’s key agricultural regions will profoundly change.

For us at Farmfolio, the effects of climate change are something we take into very serious consideration. In this article, we’ll look at some of the effects that climate change is expected to have on the production of tropical fruits, how it will affect markets, and how Farmfolio has positioned itself to withstand - and profit from - the changes to these dynamics.

Narrowing Growing Regions

Tropical fruits are a category that by definition require a highly specific set of geographical circumstances: they have to be grown in the tropics. Tropical regions, characterized by warm temperatures, high humidity, and specific altitude levels, are facing a range of challenges due to shifting climate patterns. As temperatures rise and weather becomes more unpredictable, the effects of climate change on tropical fruit-growing areas are becoming increasingly evident, with potential consequences for fruit quality, yield, and economic stability.

Orange groves affected by heavy rain in Valencia, Spain

Perhaps the most challenging effects of climate change on the tropical fruit category comes in the form of drought. The production of these goods is heavily reliant on consistent and high rainfall levels, and the level of fresh water required for certain crops can often exceed what is naturally available. This is especially true in the citrus category: sectors like orange and lime are becoming increasingly difficult in drought-affected areas like California and Mexico. The rising severity of droughts is heavily associated with climate change, and will likely get worse before it gets better.

Mexico, for example, is currently caught in the throes of an immense heat wave, which has led to high food prices, low production, and social unrest. Around 40% of the country’s total land area was listed as in moderate to extreme drought as of mid-July, killing around 250 people and severely impacting major agricultural regions such as Jalisco and Michoacán. At this level, producers have more to worry about than just lowered production and quality - they have to worry about the survival of their trees and the viability of their entire industry.

Spain is another country whose well-developed citrus industry is under threat from prolonged droughts and high temperatures. The shortage of rainfall has led the government to impose tight restrictions on irrigation, which has caused the production of oranges in regions like Valencia, Andalusia, and Málaga to decline by as much as 40%. Following the droughts, the area experienced abrupt and high rainfall, which quickly soaked the parched soil and led to issues with waterlogging, low floration, and even lower productivity.

Even for regions that are less affected by severe weather patterns, the warming climate can disrupt the natural cycles of tropical fruit trees, affecting their flowering and fruiting patterns. These cycles are often finely tuned to temperature and day length cues. Deviations from these cues due to climate change can lead to irregular flowering, reduced fruit development, and lower yields.

What’s Next For Tropical Fruits?

Luckily, there are many viable regions for tropical fruits that have not sufficiently developed their capacity for production. Countries in South America’s tropical and subtropical regions, like Ecuador, Peru, and Colombia, are ideal for producing tropical fruits, but have agricultural industries that are not yet fully diversified and production chains with serious opportunities to add efficiency and coordination. This means that as growing regions narrow, these countries will gain an increasing presence in international markets.

Tahiti lime from Colombia.

It’s not hard to see why these regions are being targeted for tropical fruits development. With natural protection from the effects of climate changes thanks to the Andes mountains, the severe weather events affecting other regions of production are not as severe. Average annual rainfall has increased somewhat, but this is mostly due to La Niña, an oscillating weather phenomenon, and events like hurricanes, freezes, and or severe droughts have not been widely observed.

That’s not to say that producers in these regions shouldn’t take precautions against future changes to the climate. By investing in plant genetics, eco-friendly fertilizers, and responsible water usage, farmers in the Andean region can prepare for warmer, drier climates. Even if climate change is less severe in certain parts of the world, which certainly seems to be the case, it never hurts to be prepared.

Closing Thoughts

For the agriculture industry, climate change is an ever-present challenge that requires adaptation, ingenuity, and no shortage of well-deployed resources to manage. In the tropical fruits sector specifically, the effects of more frequent severe weather events such as droughts, hurricanes, freezes, and floods are becoming more and more apparent.

As growing regions narrow, areas with less-affected production will become the next major players in these fruit categories. In fact, in countries like Colombia, this tendency is already very clear. Tropical fruits, especially tree crops like mango, avocado, and lime, are quickly increasing their production in the country, with lime notably doubling its volume in terms of export from 2021 to 2022.

Although climate change isn’t something that anyone wants, it is now a reality for the agriculture industry, and participants must adapt. By investing in regions of production that are naturally protected against severe weather events, producers can hedge against climate risk. If you want to own farmland assets that are well-suited to resist the effects of climate change, click the link below to schedule a meeting with our staff.

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