Asean Plus Three Emergency Rice Reserve 

*This article is one of the El Niño and La Niña series

- Part 1 -


El Niño and La Niña are two opposing natural climate patterns, which is caused by changes of the Pacific Ocean and the atmosphere. They both tend to pose significant impacts to agricultural production and practices, climate, livelihoods, and economy. More specifically, the phenomena affect rice cultivation in the ASEAN+3 region where rice is a staple food for millions of people. As we are powerless to stop the relentless occurrence of El Niño and La Niña, it is essential to mitigate their harmful effects.



El Niño and La Niña, typically, occur every two to seven years and last nine to 12 months. El Niño occurrences generally develop during the latter half of the year. This means that El Niño occurrences often begin to develop between July and August and can last into the same period of the following year, with peak conditions often occurring during November to February. La Niña occurrences often follow El Niño occurrences, typically developing during the latter part of the year, similar to El Niño. They can begin to develop between July and August and also last into the same period of the following year.




During El Niño occurrences, the ASEAN+3 region experiences reduced rains and prolonged droughts in certain areas. This adversely affects rice production as paddy fields require adequate water supply for agricultural growth. Insufficient water availability can lead to water stress, reduce yields, and even crop failure. Moreover, El Niño elevates temperatures. The high temperatures then have the potential to accelerate the ripened process, affecting the grain quality and declining grain weight which ultimately reduce the grain yield. Additionally, extreme heat stress can lead to the death of rice plants. Contrary to El Niño, La Niña brings increased rains to certain parts of the ASEAN+3 region. While this might seem beneficial for rice cultivation, excessive rains can have negative consequences. Heavy rains can lead to waterlogging and flooding, particularly in low-lying areas, resulting in the submergence and destruction of rice crop. Soil erosion and nutrient leaching can also occur, which are subsequently a threat of the soil fertility and crop productivity. However, the severity and specific effect vary of El Niño and La Niña are based on local conditions and the intensity of the climate phenomena.




In addition, their severity and effects come from human activities, such as deforestation, greenhouse gas emissions, and land use changes. Human-induced changes in the climate system can exacerbate the impacts of natural climate variability, contributing to the intensification and frequency of extreme weather phenomena and long-term changes. These human activities cause global heating which subsequently bring other natural disasters to become increasingly severe and frequent, whether they are heatwave, wildfires, floods, droughts, or even rainstorms. Nowadays, many countries must grapple with these unavoidable disaster challenges. Record-breaking heatwaves have swept across numerous regions, including America, Europe, and Asia, resulting in soaring temperatures that claim many lives. Additionally, severe floods have ravaged countries and caused extensive damage which poses threats to communities and infrastructure. These situations subsequently impact food supplies and food security, which underscore the urgent need for climate action and disaster preparedness measures.




In response to the phenomena, most of governments can make a progress for climate situations and natural disasters by investing in early warning systems, developing national action plans, and cooperating with other countries in order to subsequently boost resilience. Meanwhile, population actions of staying informed and following tips from the government, as well as checking supplies to make sure there are no damages and in good working condition could also support people to prevent against the effect of the phenomena. Besides, international organisations can play a crucial role in preparing for and managing the impacts of El Niño and La Niña occurrences.




Shortly, El Niño and La Niña are natural climate patterns that occur periodically and have a substantial impact on agricultural production, including rice cultivation. These phenomena arise without any direct human control over their timing, intensity, or duration. However, it is crucial to acknowledge that despite these challenges, human resilience and cooperation can play a pivotal role in mitigating their effects. Our effort in working together, adapting to changing conditions, and prioritising sustainable practices can navigate the impacts of El Niño and La Niña and build a more resilient and sustainable future for ourselves and future generations.



Bussapailyn Shimphalee*

28 August 2023





Sources: Food and Agriculture Organization


* This article is a product of the APTERR Secretariat. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the APTERR Secretariat and its APTERR members.




ASMC Weather and Climate for ASEAN. Seasonal Outlook.


BBC. (2023). What are El Niño and La Niña, and how do they change the weather?.


Bureau of Meteorology. What are El Niño and La Niña events?.


National Library of Medicine. (2018).  Soil nutrient loss through erosion: Impact of different cropping systems and soil amendments in Ghana.


National Library of Medicine. (2022). Influence of high-temperature stress on rice growth and development.


New Life Restoration. 6 Tips to prepare for El Nino.


NOAA (2016). El Niño and La Niña: Frequently asked questions.ño-and-la-niña-frequently-asked-questions.


The Guardian. (2022). Revealed: how climate breakdown is supercharging toll of extreme weather.


UNOCHA. El Niño and La Niña.




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