Thailand is facing a serious challenge to its rice production due to the expected impact of El Nino, a weather phenomenon that causes drought and high temperatures in many parts of Asia.
The country, which is the second-largest exporter of rice in the world, has asked its farmers to plant only one crop this year, instead of the usual two, to conserve water and avoid crop failure.
Rice is a staple food for more than half of the world’s population, and any disruption in its supply or price can have significant consequences for food security and inflation. According to the Bangkok Post, Thailand’s Office of the National Water Resources has developed a plan to manage the water levels in the country’s dams and reservoirs, and has urged farmers to cooperate with the authorities and follow their advice.
Thailand is not alone in facing the effects of El Nino. Other rice-producing countries in Asia, such as Vietnam, Indonesia and the Philippines, may also experience lower yields and higher prices due to the weather anomaly. The global rice market may see tighter supplies and increased volatility as a result of El Nino.
El Nino is a natural phenomenon that occurs every few years, when the surface temperature of the Pacific Ocean rises above normal levels. This affects the atmospheric circulation and rainfall patterns around the world, especially in tropical and subtropical regions. El Nino usually brings dry and hot conditions to Southeast Asia, reducing rainfall and increasing the risk of drought and wildfires.
According to Bloomberg, El Nino is already contributing to severe heat that has scorched Southeast Asia in recent weeks. The weather pattern also poses a threat to other crops that Thailand produces, such as palm oil, cocoa and sugar. Thai sugar production may drop to the second lowest since 2009-10 in the season that starts from October, according to a trader.
The Thai wet season, which normally begins in the third week of May, will start a bit later this year with a period of intermittent rain in June, the Bangkok Post reported. The national water agency has advised farmers to plant drought-resistant crops or switch to other occupations if possible. It has also warned of possible water shortages for household and industrial use if the situation worsens.