Global Warming to Make Beer Costlier, Study Says

Researchers at the University of East Anglia, UK warn that global warming will severely hit beer production in the coming years. In an article published in the journal Nature Plants on Monday, they argue that the growing of barley, the key ingredient in beer, will be severely affected by the heat wave and drought conditions by the end of the century. The drop in barley production due to climatic changes is estimated at 3 to 17 percent worldwide and this will cause a 52 to 600 percent hike in beer prices.  Beer consumption will drop as a result, though this will affect different countries differently: Ireland may see a drop of 33 percent, and in China, the world’s largest consumer, the figure will be around 10 percent.

Barley is highly sensitive to very hot conditions and it is now grown in regions that are expected to be affected by rising temperatures and increasing aridity. The researchers proceeded by identifying 34 key areas for barley growing and assessing the impact of short supply of the grain caused by extreme heat and drought. As per 2011 statistics, 17 percent of barley produced goes into beer making.  Most of the rest is used as cattle feed.  The researchers assume that in a drought situation, more priority will be given to the animals than to beer. The grain will become more expensive as its production goes down and less barley will be allocated for beer, and as a result, beer prices will shoot up.

The price hike will not be hitting all the countries in the world uniformly and in the same pattern.  For instance, Australia and Japan, where beer is more expensive now will not be the places where the prices will go up most.  The researchers concede that beer is a luxury and a drop in its consumption has health benefits. However, the fact remains that it is the most popular alcoholic beverage the world over, and its unavailability under hot conditions is something many do not want to think about. The price rise will lead to a social stratification as well, as the luxury of beer will be denied to people from lower income groups.


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