Climate Change Puts Ketchup At Risk
Image Credit: iStock, Tomato ketchup

Global warming is real, and this time now it’s coming after our favourite tomato ketchup - a mealtime staple across the globe. Be it sandwiches, burgers or fries; noodles or fritters, we love this tangy-sweet condiment with just about everything. But in a rather distressing study, a team of researchers from Aarhus University in Denmark has warned that soaring temperatures are adversely affecting the yearly yield of what is being described as ‘processing tomatoes’. 

The juicy, red, ripe and sweet tomatoes from which ketchup is made are predominantly cultivated in California, Italy and China. Two-thirds (65%) of the 180 million tonnes of tomatoes produced every year are cultivated in these three countries. Sadly though, these places are now being impacted by climate change. As in the case of most crops around the world, rising temperatures are alarmingly putting these tomatoes under stress. The study pointed out that climate change will severely influence the yield, production and water demand of processing tomatoes. And even though atmospheric CO2 concentration may help offset, it cannot fully compensate for the adverse effects of increasing temperatures.

Published in Nature Food, excerpts from the report read: “There are two types of cultivated tomato: one type for fresh consumption - for example, salad tomatoes - that are usually grown under controlled environments; and the other type that are used for industrial transformation known as processing tomatoes - for example, canned tomatoes - which are usually grown under field conditions. Processing tomatoes are important because they are used for tomato paste, tomato sauce, ketchup and other tomato-derived products.”



The researchers used a mathematical climate model to come to the conclusion. They found that under extreme circumstances, the production of ‘processing tomatoes’ is likely to be cut by half between 2050 and 2100. Sounding the alarm, Dr Davide Cammarano - who spearheaded the study - said that the ‘worst-case scenario’ would mean a temperature rise of nearly 2.6C (between 2040 and 2069) and 5C (between 2070 and 2099) in the three tomato-yielding regions. This is calculated against the baseline period of 1980-2009. The findings throw light on the fact that even lower levels of global warming can majorly impact tomato production in these three zones.

According to the report, although China may still be able to maintain a feasible production of ‘processing tomatoes’, California and Italy may have to bear the brunt of the environmental changes. The computer model also predicted that the global harvest of ‘processing tomatoes’ in the 11 biggest growers is likely to fall from the present 14 million tonnes a year level to under 7 million tonnes.

Climate change is damaging what we eat and how we live faster than we thought it would. For instance, the blistering heatwave that swept through various parts of India earlier this year devastated many crops - including mango and wheat cultivation - and adversely affected the lives of several small and seasoned farmers across the country. Studies have revealed that the intensity of the heatwave was made 30 times more likely by global warming. And now it’s threatening the future of our all-time favourite condiment - the tomato ketchup.