‘Developing’ El Nino may hit India’s maize, soya and rice output, says FAO

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) said that the production of corn (maize), soybeans and rice in India may be affected by the possible El Nino weather phenomenon, which could cause severe droughts in Australia, Indonesia and parts of South Asia. “After experiencing three consecutive years of La Niña that brought bumper crops for some and crop failures for others, it is likely that we are heading straight for El Niño,” FAO’s Agriculture and Market Information System (AMIS) said in its latest Market Monitor.

Greater impact on maize

AMIS said the “likely” El Niño effect is uncertain as no two events are the same in terms of strength, duration or local thinning. “However, based on historical data, certain crops and regions can be highlighted as potentially having impacts on yield,” she said.

El Niño and Southern Oscillation (ENSO) events are expected to affect crop yields on more than 25 percent of global farmland, according to the AMIS Market Monitor.

Overall, they tend to slightly improve average yields of soybeans, while decreasing average yields of maize, rice and wheat globally. Corn tends to be affected more than other crops. Negative effects tend to be less for irrigated crops than for rainfed crops.

Maize and soybean yields are likely to be affected in India, the North China Plain, southern Mexico, northeastern Brazil, Indonesia, West Africa and South Africa.

The effect may be compensated

The weather event, which occurs on average every 2-7 years and usually lasts 9-12 months, is likely to affect rice production across Southeast Asia, including India.

El Nino, which according to the Climate Prediction Center (CPC) in the US has a 60 percent chance of appearing during May-July and increasing to 70 percent during June-August, could boost wheat production in southeastern Australia.

While El Niño could significantly reduce crop yields in some regions, there is an opportunity to offset any potentially negative impact globally, AMIS said in Market Monitor. Thus, reductions in yield in one area may be balanced by increases in another. Over the next two months, AMIS will closely monitor El Niño and its potential impact on global agriculture.


On a positive note, corn and soybean production are likely to pick up in the US Midwest and Southeast South America. The FAO said that wheat production may rise in the southern Great Plains of the United States, China, Central Asia and southeastern South America.

The warning comes on the heels of the South Asia Climate Outlook Forum (SASCOF), a body supported by the World Meteorological Organization of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), saying that the southwest monsoon could see normal to below-normal rainfall over most parts of South Asia. . The World Meteorological Organization said that at this stage there is no indication of the strength or duration of the El Niño phenomenon.

The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said the likelihood of an El Niño later this year is increasing. “This will have adverse effects on weather and climate patterns in many regions of the world than the long-running La Niña, and will likely lead to an increase in global temperatures,” she added.

Will it be strong?

Citing the CPC, the World Meteorological Organization said the odds of El Nino developing later in the year are 80 percent or more. “There are a lot of signs that an El Niño could be around the corner,” she said.

Although the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) is currently neutral, it likely won’t last that way for long, says the World Meteorological Organization. “There are indications that this year’s (El Nino) event could be a strong event,” he said, drawing on updates based on inputs from global production centers for long-range forecasts and expert assessment.

If El Niño materializes, she said, and depending on its strength, moderate to above-average rains could occur in many parts of the world, while other regions could experience drier-than-average conditions.

“This will make happy many farmers who have suffered in the past years (because of La Nino) while taking the suffering elsewhere,” said AMIS market observer.

WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas said the cooling of La Nina over the past three years had brought about a “temporary” curb on global warming. But El Niño is likely to lead to a new rise in global warming and increase the chance of temperature records being broken.