Farmers on the Canadian Prairies are “literally” the only agricultural winners on the planet as a result of global warming, according to an economist studying global food supply.
Lutz Goedde, a partner with McKinsey and Co. in Denver, told the Global Business Forum in Banff on Friday that rising temperatures and longer growing seasons mean that ever-increasing areas of Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba will be able to switch to corn and soybeans from wheat and canola.
“I think Canada is in a unique situation with the corn and soy belt basically moving north,” he told reporters after his speech.
“The planet is heating up and there is an opportunity for Canadian farmers—and they have been executing on it—to convert wheat land to corn and soy production.”
He said warmer weather is also allowing Prairie farmers to grow more pulse crops such as peas and lentils to export to emerging markets such as India.
“I struggle with the concept of benefiting from global warming because, for the world, global warming is an issue and it’s causing us issues around food production and diseases and so forth,” Goedde said.
On its website, Agriculture Canada cites studies that suggest the Prairies will experience more pronounced warming due to climate change than the rest of the world and the milder, shorter winters will allow increased farm productivity and new crops.
It also warns that warming could increase the frequency of extreme weather events like droughts and floods and could aid in the growth of weeds, pests and diseases in livestock and crops.
In his presentation, Goedde said the world must produce 40 to 50 per cent more food in the next 20 years to account for population growth and a growing taste for higher protein diets in emerging economies like China and India.