Rising temperatures risk SE Asia’s multi-billion dollar cassava industry

April 16, 2012

According to research presented at the Climate Smart Agriculture conference in Bangkok last week, climate change may be causing outbreaks of new, invasive pests that could threaten Southeast Asia's multi-billion dollar cassava industry and the livelihoods of thousands of small farmers.

"Warmer conditions and longer dry seasons linked to climate change could prove to be the perfect catalyst for outbreaks of pests and diseases . . . affecting food crops," said Pramod K Aggarwal, regional program leader for Asia at the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR).

"The cassava pest situation in Asia is pretty serious as it is. But according to our studies, rising temperatures could make things a whole lot worse," Tony Bellotti, cassava entomologist at the International Centre for Tropical Agriculture, was quoted as saying in the journal Tropical Plant Biology.

"One outbreak of an invasive species is bad enough, but our results show that climate change could trigger multiple, combined outbreaks across Southeast Asia, southern China and the cassava-growing areas of southern India. It's a serious threat to the hundreds of thousands of smallholder farmers for whom cassava is a lifeline, and their main source of income," added Belloti.

Around five million small producers across Southeast Asia supply cassava to domestic and foreign processing industries, which convert the roots to animal feed and biofuels and also extract starch for use in a wide variety of food and other products.