Report: Water Scarcity is the Biggest Challenge Facing Food Production

A report from Barclays Capital found that while demand for freshwater continues to grow, businesses and countries are doing very little to become more efficient.
By Ephantus Mukundi
Jul. 7, 2021 08:00 UTC

According to a report from Barclays Capital, the global con­sumer sta­ple sec­tor – includ­ing food pro­duc­tion and agribusi­ness – is fac­ing a major risk due to water scarcity and is cur­rently the most vul­ner­a­ble of all sec­tors.

Our analy­sis sug­gests water should be con­sid­ered the largest dri­ver of envi­ron­men­tal con­cern for the sta­ples,” the authors of the report wrote.

The water cri­sis must be approached with the same urgency and inno­va­tion as the Covid-19 cri­sis – and the busi­ness case for action is clearer than ever.- Cate Lamb, global direc­tor of water scarcity, CDP

The report ana­lyzed the risks and oppor­tu­ni­ties faced by global sta­ples due to water short­ages, and high water costs and increased reg­u­la­tion.

According to Barclays Capital’s fore­casts, the need for fresh water in the food indus­try is set to increase glob­ally by 40 per­cent by 2030 due to a grow­ing pop­u­la­tion. In addi­tion, increas­ing global tem­per­a­tures have wors­ened the sit­u­a­tion. The report con­cluded that water short­age is the most crit­i­cal envi­ron­men­tal con­cern in the food indus­try.

See Also:EU Introduces Standards for Use of Reclaimed Water for Irrigation

Curiously, while com­pa­nies in the food indus­try are acutely aware of the chal­lenge posed by water scarcity in their day-to-day oper­a­tions, they do not seem to be doing enough to deal with the chal­lenge. Instead, most of these com­pa­nies are focus­ing on the effects of ris­ing car­bon lev­els.

To reduce their depen­dence on water, busi­nesses should adopt sus­tain­able agri­cul­tural prac­tices such as using sen­sors, pre­ci­sion irri­ga­tion, con­sult­ing satel­lite data and soil-less farm­ing, the report rec­om­mended. Following these mea­sures would help to pre­vent a water cri­sis in the con­sumer sta­ples indus­try in the future.

CDP, a non-profit that runs the global dis­clo­sure sys­tem for com­pa­nies, gov­ern­ments and investors to man­age their envi­ron­men­tal impacts, said that most of them could not show that they are doing any­thing tan­gi­ble to min­i­mize the press­ing risk of water-related prob­lems.

According to a CDP sur­vey involv­ing 2,934 com­pa­nies that dis­closed data about their water man­age­ment in 2020, more than one-third of the com­pa­nies increased their water con­sump­tion com­pared to 2019.

In addi­tion, 95 per­cent of the com­pa­nies could not pro­vide rep­utable evi­dence that they were mak­ing progress against their pol­lu­tion tar­gets.

The water cri­sis must be approached with the same urgency and inno­va­tion as the Covid-19 cri­sis – and the busi­ness case for action is clearer than ever,” Cate Lamb, CDP’s global direc­tor of water secu­rity, said. We can turn this sit­u­a­tion around, but we need much more trans­for­ma­tive action.”

As investors pay closer atten­tion to com­pa­nies’ man­age­ment of water risks, CDP is call­ing for all com­pa­nies to develop ambi­tious tar­gets to reduce water with­drawals and elim­i­nate water pol­lu­tion, includ­ing net-zero water tar­gets,” she added. Companies must take bold action now to trans­form their busi­ness mod­els.”


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