Many of the crops grown in Kiribati are affected by changes in climate. Sea level rise affects agriculture crops in two major ways: saltwater intrusion and loss of coastal land due to inundation. However, climate change is most likely to affect agricultural crops and production through changes in rainfall, particularly during La Niña years when droughts are most likely to occur.
Production of copra - the main cash crop for about 55 percent of Kiribati’s population - is sensitive to rainfall as coconuts require an annual rainfall of at least 1,000 to 1,500 millimetres. Production of coconuts, breadfruit and pandanus are particularly sensitive to loss of land due to inundation. Te babai (giant taro) is extremely sensitive to reductions in groundwater and the pits are also prone to saltwater intrusion as a result of storm surges and overwash.
If wetter conditions prevail, production of these water-sensitive crops is likely to increase, but if rainfall decreases production is likely to decline.