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FAO Warns of Potential El Nino Impact on India's Maize, Soya & Rice Output

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) warned that El Nino, a weather event that can trigger severe drought conditions over Australia, Indonesia and parts of South Asia, could have a negative impact on India’s corn, soyabean and rice production.

Shivam Dwivedi
FAO Warns of Potential El Nino Impact on India's Maize, Soya & Rice Output
FAO Warns of Potential El Nino Impact on India's Maize, Soya & Rice Output

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO) agriculture and market information system (AMIS), the effects of El Nino are difficult to predict because no two events are alike in terms of strength, duration or localised mitigation.

However, based on historical data, some crops and regions can be highlighted as likely to have yield impacts. The weather event, which usually lasts 9-12 months and occurs every 2-7 years, is likely to impact rice production across all of South-East Asia, including India. Maize and soyabean productivity will likely be affected in India, north China plain, southern Mexico, north-east Brazil, Indonesia, West Africa and southern Africa.

The alert comes after the South Asian Climate Outlook Forum (SASCOF), a body backed by FAO’s weather arm World Meteorological Organization (WMO), said the south-west monsoon could witness normal to below normal rainfall over most parts of South Asia. However, at this stage there is no indication of the strength or duration of El Nino, the WMO said.

While El Nino can significantly lower crop yields in some regions, there is a chance that any potential negative impact might be offset at the global level, AMIS said. “Thus, reductions in yields in one region might be balanced by increases in another. Over the next couple of months, AMIS will keep a close watch on El Nino and its possible impact on global agriculture,” it said.

On the positive side, maize and soyabean production will likely gain in Midwest US and southeast South America. Wheat yields may rise in the US southern Great Plains, China, Central Asia and southeast South America, the FAO arm said.

The WMO has said that the likelihood of an El Nino developing later this year is increasing. “This would have the opposite impacts on weather and climate patterns in many regions of the world to the long-running La Niña and would likely fuel higher global temperatures,” it said.

Probabilities for the development of El Nino later during the year are 80 per cent or more, according to the WMO. “There are a lot of signs suggesting that El Niño might be just around the corner,” it said. If El Niño materialises, and depending on its strength, average to above-average rains could occur in several parts of the world while other areas might experience drier-than-average conditions, it said.

The cooling La Nina over the past three years had put a “temporary” brake on global temperature increase, according to WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas. But El Nino will most likely lead to a new spike in global heating and increase the chance of breaking temperature records.

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