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Australian Heat Wave Threatens Crops, Livestock

Australia’s heat wave is hurting agricultural production and livestock farmers, Reuters reports.

Less available water for crops will have a negative impact on crops including wheat and sugar, Paul Deane, senior agricultural economist at ANZ Bank, tells the news agency. Australia is the second largest wheat exporter and the third largest raw sugar exporter in the world.

Meanwhile farmers don’t have enough water and food for their animals, forcing them to send an increased number to slaughter and causing Australian beef prices to drop about 10 percent in the last month.

The Australian Bureau of Agriculture and Resource Economics and Sciences predicts the country’s cattle heard will fall to 25 million head during the 2013-14 season, the lowest since the 2009-10 season.

The recent heat follows Australia’s hottest year on record. The Climate Council has warned that climate change will make the country’s extreme hot weather worse.

Meanwhile, extreme weather in the US in the form of the east coast’s record freeze earlier this month could cost the economy $5 billion, analysts warn. On the opposite coast, California’s $44.7 billion agriculture industry is hurting from the state’s drought and facing more water rationing this year.

Economic losses from extreme weather events have risen from an annual global average of about $50 billion in the 1980s to close to $200 billion over the last decade, according to the report released in November by the World Bank.

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