Cotton Farming in Greece – The Winner of Climate Change!

Climate change is not only “problems”, sometimes it may also offer opportunities for the market players. Cotton farming in Greece is an example of opportunities arising from climate change conditions. Data Analytics demonstrate that climate change conditions help to improve the cultivation of cotton. Eighty percent (80%) of the cotton in the European Union is produced in Greece. Cotton is a major trading good for Greece with an increase in Prices cotton by 82% since the year 2000. Ninety percent (90%) of Greek cotton is exported and only 10% is consumed by Greek spinners. Main export destinations are Turkey and Egypt. Cotton yields are highly affected by climatic conditions. Warm tropical temperatures (minimum 21 degree Celsius) are ideal for cotton growth. Plant’s deep roots make them resistant to droughts and water scarcity. We experience this year a very long and warm summer.

In October, Larissa, a city in an area with long tradition of cotton farming, there were many days with high daily maximum temperatures of 25 deg Celsius which is in the range of 3 degrees Celsius above the climatic average. Such high temperatures and the prolonged summers in Greece are ideal conditions for cotton growth. Last year, 2018, the cotton production increased by 16.2% and the land utilization by cotton cultivations, was increased by 6.5%, replacing durum wheat and corn fields. For this year a further increase by 6% in yield is expected. Can we expect such optimal conditions also in the future sustaining potential new ventures?

Climate models predict good prospects for the cotton farming in the future. In climate change terms,  the period suitable to grow cotton turns longer and longer since the 80s and is expected to continue to extend further (see the trend line in the figure). A recent climate study investigated in detail the effect of climate change in the cotton sector. The study showed that climate conditions will improve substantially in the upcoming decades.  We can count already now cotton to become the winner of climate change. A higher agricultural income of 103 million euros (+29% relative to 2015) is  estimated due to climate change effects. Such income will be collected by Cotton individual producers in the country. Climate in Greece will get probably drier with longer droughts and higher water scarcity. Thus, increasing prices for irrigation may partially offset the gain in cotton yields partially. However the overall cost/benefit will remain favorable.

Better climatic conditions for cotton can become a paradigm of business changes for the agricultural sector in Greece. It is noticeable that climate change conditions vary regionally. Thus if your business is associated with Cotton, the support and advise needed by the consulting agencies will be crucial necessity for a successful venture, to choose the right location for your business project.

Figure 1: During the crop life cycle of cotton it is important to be in a suitable temperature range between 21 and 37 degrees Celsius to achieve high crop yields. The number of days are shown  for the region of Larissa,  in which suitable (21 to 37 degrees Celsius daily avg., left figure) and good (26 to 30 degrees Celsius, daily avg., right figure) temperature conditions exists for cotton growth. In future these conditions will improve further as indicated by a trend line.

 

By: Dr. Tronje Peer Kemena* – Climate Change Specialist

 

Sources: AccuWeather.com; Thrakika.gr; Statistics.gr; Georgopoulou et al. (doi:  10.1016/j.crm.2017.02.002)

*Dr. Kemena has got more than 12 years of applied research experience in the areas of Physics, Mathematics and Climate Change. He holds degrees of Mechanical Engineering (BSc) and Physics (MSc and PhD) from the Christian Albrecht University of Kiel, Germany

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