Pomelo production is to fluctuate wildly over the next decade, growing steadily until plummeting by 40 percent as climate change affects temperatures and rainfall, Greenpeace Taiwan said on Thursday.
Taiwan produces an average of 74,000 tonnes of pomeloes per year with a steadily rising yield, averaging 13,000kg per hectare over the past five years, the environmental group said.
However, Greenpeace climate change models using data from the Central Weather Bureau and the Ministry of Science and Technology’s Taiwan Climate Change Projection Information and Adaptation Knowledge Platform show dramatic fluctuations in production over the next decade, it said.
Screen grab by Lu Hsien-hsiu, Taipei Times
If carbon emissions continue at their current pace, the two most important pomelo growing regions in the country — Tainan’s Madou District (麻豆) and Rueisui Township (瑞穗) in Hualien County — are to experience the worst production shocks in a century, it said.
Unstable weather could reduce yield from a peak of about 17,900kg per hectare in 2024 to about 12,600kg per hectare by 2029, a decline of 40 percent over a five year period, Greenpeace said.
The primary reason for this dramatic fluctuation is shown to be unstable low temperatures in June, with about 790kg per hectare lost for every 1°C of warming, it said.
June is peak growing season for pomeloes, during which time fluctuations in daily temperatures have a significant effect on fruit development and output, Greenpeace East Asia campaigner Liu Yi-chun (劉羿君) said.
From now until 2024, June temperatures are expected to fall, causing yields to climb, the group said.
However, in the five years that follow, temperatures are expected to rise, resulting in a drop in production from 2024 to 2029, it added.
This variation would directly affect growers’ income, with an oversupply in the next few years potentially tanking prices, followed by a collapse that would pose a challenge to supply and demand, it said.
Aside from rising temperatures, unsteady precipitation would also impact yields, Greenpeace said.
The group said that farmers told them that unstable weather patterns over the past four years have made it difficult to estimate the growing calendar, with typhoons arriving at unusual times and plum rains giving way to drought conditions.
Farmers’ livelihoods depend on the weather, leaving them especially vulnerable to climate change, Liu said.
The Council of Agriculture last month announced a NT$10 billion (US$360.54 million) annual fund to help farmers adapt to climate shocks, but some might never see the money without a plan for how local governments should distribute it, Liu added.
Greenpeace called on local governments to pass ordinances governing the distribution of federal assistance, as well as develop strategies to help farmers deal with climate change through assessing risk and ensuring access to water.
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