El Nino is threatening rice crops while grain supplies already are squeezed by the war in Ukraine


NEW DELHI (AP) — Warmer, drier weather because of an earlier than usual El Nino is expected to hamper rice production across Asia, hitting global food security in a world still reeling from the impacts of the war in Ukraine.

An El Nino is a natural, temporary and occasional warming of part of the Pacific that shifts global weather patterns, and climate change is making them stronger. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced this one in June, a month or two earlier than it usually does. This gives it time to grow. Scientists say there’s a one in four chance it will expand to supersized levels.

That’s bad news for rice farmers, particularly in Asia where 90% of the world’s rice is grown and eaten, since a strong El Nino typically means less rainfall for the thirsty crop.

Past El Ninos have resulted in extreme weather, ranging from drought to floods.

There are already “alarm bells,” said Abdullah Mamun, a research analyst at the International Food Policy Research Institute or IFPRI, pointing to rising rice prices due to shortfalls in production. The average price of 5% broken white rice in June in Thailand was about 16% higher than last year’s average.

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