Plant diseases rob global economy of $220bn annually – UN study

The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), an agency of the United Nations says plant diseases rob the global economy of more than 220 billion dollars annually.

A study supported by FAO and published on Wednesday,  indicated that 40 per cent of global crop production is currently lost to pests.

The UN agency added that invasive pests cost countries at least 70 billion dollars annually.

The study further said that the invasive pests were one of the main drivers of biodiversity loss.

“Species such as fall armyworm, which feeds on crops that include maize, sorghum, and millet, have already spread due to warmer climate.

“Others, such as desert locusts, which are the world’s most destructive migratory pests, are expected to change their migratory routes and geographical distribution.

“Movements like these threaten food security as a whole, and small holder farmers, as well as people in countries where food security is an issue, are among those especially at risk,” the study said.

Speaking at the launch of the report, FAO, Director-General, Qu Dongyu said preserving plant health was fundamental to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.

“Sustaining plant health is an integral part of our work towards more efficient, inclusive, resilient, and sustainable agri-food systems,’’ Dongyu said.

The authors of the study found out that climate change was making pests which ravage important agricultural crops even more destructive, heightening threats to global food security and the environment.

The authors outlined several recommendations to mitigate the impact of climate change, starting with stepping up international cooperation, as effective management of plant pests in one country affects success in others.

As half of all emerging plant diseases are spread through travel and trade, improved measures to limit transmission, while adjustments to plant protection policies are also critical.

They also stressed the need for more research, and more investments in strengthening national systems and structures related to plant health.

The scientific review looks at 15 plant pests that have spread or may spread due to climate change.

Risks are increasing, the authors warn, with a single, unusually warm winter capable of providing conditions suitable for insect infestations.

“The review clearly shows that the impact of climate change is one of the greatest challenges the plant health community is facing.”

The study was prepared by Prof. Maria Lodovica at the University of Turin in Italy, along with 10 co-authors from across the globe, under the auspices of the Secretariat of the International Plant Protection Convention, which FAO hosts.

The report is among the key initiatives of the International Year of Plant Health, which ends in June. (NAN)

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