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Climate Change Threatens Rice Production in Asia, Think Tank Warns


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Warmer and drier weather caused by an early El Nino event is expected to have severe repercussions for rice production across Asia, impacting global food security. This article examines the implications of climate change-induced El Nino phenomena on rice farming, which is predominantly concentrated in Asia. The consequences include reduced rainfall, rising rice prices, food shortages, and challenges related to fertilizer availability. These developments pose significant threats to both regional and global agricultural systems and raise concerns about long-term sustainability.


El Nino and Rice Production:

El Nino, a periodic warming of the Pacific Ocean, affects global weather patterns. With climate change, El Nino events are becoming more intense. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced an early El Nino in June, raising concerns as there is a one in four chance that it will reach unprecedented levels. Such El Nino occurrences typically lead to reduced rainfall, adversely affecting rice cultivation, particularly in Asia where 90% of the world’s rice is grown and consumed.


Impacts on Rice Farmers and Food Security:

The consequences of El Nino on rice farmers are already evident, with rising rice prices indicating production shortfalls. In Thailand, the average price of 5% broken white rice in June was approximately 16% higher than the previous year. Global rice stocks have been depleted due to factors such as devastating floods in Pakistan, a major rice exporter. This year’s El Nino could exacerbate existing challenges faced by rice-producing countries, including reduced fertilizer availability and export restrictions on rice. Myanmar, Cambodia, and Nepal are identified as particularly vulnerable in a recent report by research firm BMI.


Climate Change Amplifies the Risks:

Rising global temperatures and abnormal monsoon patterns contribute to the vulnerability of rice farming. Global warming intensifies the impacts of El Nino, creating a domino effect of adverse consequences for rice farmers. The scarcity of rainfall can result in parched soil and cascading effects on future crops. Countries such as Indonesia, heavily dependent on rice cultivation, are particularly susceptible to the early stages of El Nino. Strategies like planting rice earlier to align with El Nino periods have been attempted, but unpredictable weather patterns continue to pose challenges.


Challenges in Fertilizer Availability:

The war in Ukraine and its associated sanctions have disrupted fertilizer shipments, affecting global fertilizer availability. China, a major producer, restricted fertilizer exports to manage domestic prices, further straining the global fertilizer market. This scarcity impacts rice farmers who rely on fertilizers for optimal crop yields. Efforts to find alternative sources have been challenging, leaving many countries scrambling to secure supplies.


Concerns for the Future:

Farmers like Baldev Singh in India’s Punjab state face uncertain futures. Climate change-induced irregular rainfall patterns and recent floods have damaged newly planted rice crops. Singh, who traditionally grows rice alongside wheat crops, faces the challenge of low rainfall and depleted aquifers due to rice irrigation practices. The reliance on government purchases at fixed prices adds to the complexity of the situation.



The impact of El Nino and climate change on rice production in Asia poses significant threats to global food security. Reduced rainfall, rising prices, and challenges related to fertilizer availability exacerbate the vulnerability of rice farmers and their communities. Addressing these issues requires coordinated efforts, including climate-resilient agricultural practices, improved water management strategies, and investment in sustainable agricultural systems. Mitigating the impacts of climate change on rice production is crucial for ensuring food security and building resilience in a world grappling with climate-related challenges.

News Desk, where most of the News Item edit for THE THINK TANK JOURNAL

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