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Kazakhstan: Wheat, Climate and Global Stability

Kazakhstan is huge, and hugely important on the international scene, yet we rarely hear about it. In terms of land mass, Kazakhstan is a massive country – the ninth largest in the world. It is also one of the largest producers of wheat, featuring in the top ten list of nations for that distinction.

It’s wheat-production capacity places it at the center of a Central Asian triumvirate that is critical for maintaining the stability of the global food market. According to the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (and as highlighted in a recent piece on Al Jazeera), Kazakhstan, Russia and Ukraine alone have the capacity to meet “half of the world’s grain export needs.”

But there is one significant problem. The region is prone to extreme droughts, and climate change is making things worse.

As we wrote in a previous blog:

In recent years, extreme hot and dry weather has forced Russia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan to reduce their harvest forecasts (and two studies explicitly link the devastating Russian heat wave of 2010 to climate change).

As models and projections continue to suggest that climate change will lead to more such extreme weather events in Central Asia, the players, guardians, and beneficiaries of the global food market will need to take note of Kazakhstan’s (as well as Russia’s and Ukraine’s) uncertain climate future, and make the adaptive adjustments necessary for ensuring the continuation of access to reasonably-priced wheat on the global market. A failure to do so could mean not just more food price instability, but accelerated social and political instability as well.


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