Many of the crops grown in Kiribati are affected by changes in climate. Production of copra – the main cash crop for about 55 percent of Kiribati’s population – is sensitive to rainfall, as coconuts require annual rainfall of at least 1,000-1,500 millimetres.
Te babai (giant taro) is extremely sensitive to reductions in groundwater. Te babai pits are also prone to saltwater intrusion as a result of storm surges and overwash.
Climate change is most likely to affect agricultural crops through changes in rainfall. If wetter conditions prevail, production of water-sensitive crops-coconut, breadfruit, and te babai – is likely to increase. If rainfall decreases, coconut and te babai production will likely decline.
Climate variability may also affect agricultural production, especially during La Niña years, when droughts are most likely to occur.
Sea level rise could affect agriculture crops in two major ways: first, through saltwater intrusion, which would affect te babai production in particular. Second, through loss of coastal land due to inundation, which could reduce production of copra, breadfruit, and pandanus. Estimates of the cost of damage could not be made due to data and time constraints.