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Impact of climate change on food source in Pacific 'unknown'
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The exact magnitude and nature of climate change impacts on food sources in Pacific island countries were relatively unknown, according to a report on climate change and food security in the Pacific.

The report, jointly prepared by the Secretariat of the Pacific Environment Program (SPREP) and the University of the South Pacific (USP) said the Pacific Island Countries must begin to implement adaptation measures like expanding seed banks and increasing investments in primary food sources, the Pacnews reported on Thursday.

The report agreed that climate variations have disrupted food production, water supply and the economies of Pacific nations. A group of climate change experts in the Pacific were meeting in Apia, the capital of Samoa, for the Pacific Climate Change Roundtable.

"The primary food sources (agriculture, fisheries and forests and water) will be impacted by climate change and in most cases, these impacts will be negative," the Pacnews quoted the report as saying.

"There is a worrying trend throughout the Pacific today that demand for food is increasingly being serviced by imports. Basic staples such as rice and wheat for flour are key substitutes of traditional diets that are now part and parcel of a Pacific Islander's daily diet," the report said.

"This is a critical situation in terms of food and nutritional security, given the volatility of international commodity prices," it added.

Currently, in Solomon Islands, a 20 kg bag of rice costs around US$15-20, the report said.

The above example denotes that future food security for the Pacific cannot be left solely to dependency on imports. If that is the case, then poverty would increase and the ability of a Pacific nation to deliver on its Millennium Development Goals obligations would be seriously compromised, it added.

Moreover, cheap food imports have also contributed to the rise in heart diseases, obesity and other health complications in the Pacific Islands, as such, improvements to local food production are pertinent in strengthening resilience and more so in a changing climate regime, it added.

In some countries large-scale deforestation has led to monoculture crop production solely aimed at earning foreign exchange. As a result, prices of locally produced crops are higher compared to imported goods such as rice and flour.

Another contributing factor is the prolonged variations from the normal rainfall, which can be devastating to agriculture.

The report recommends that Pacific Island governments mainstream climate change knowledge at every level of national planning.

(Xinhua News Agency October 17, 2008)

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