Asean Plus Three Emergency Rice Reserve 

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

- Final Part -

 

 

The years 2023 and 2024 have seen a dynamic interplay of El Niño and La Niña, two climatic phenomena that profound effects on weather worldwide. The ASEAN Plus Three region has been particularly susceptible to these climatic shifts. It’s essential to closely examine the potential consequences of El Niño on each member state, particularly rice which is a main staple food in the region.

 

El Niño has extended dry weather from mid-2023 into mid-2024, leading to elevated temperatures across the region. Many countries, including Cambodia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, Thailand, and Viet Nam, have experienced temperatures exceeding 40 degrees Celsius. This surge in temperature has placed plants under heat stress, adversely affecting their growth and ultimately impacting yield. Consequences also include dehydration, delayed growth, decreased pollination, compromised seedling or root development, the occurrence of withered or yellow leaves, and even plant seedling fatalities.

 

 

Indonesia, the largest economy in Southeast Asia, has been severely affected by the El Niño phenomenon, causing an extreme and prolonged drought that disrupted rice production. The scarcity of rice has persisted longer than usual, contributing to a sustained period of high prices. This disruption in rice production has also played a role in the rising inflation rate, as evidenced by Indonesia's Consumer Price Index, which recorded a 2.56 percent year-on-year increase in October. Likewise, the Philippines faced a rice shortage due to an insufficient buffer stock, necessitating increased rice imports to meet demand. A greater supply of rice has been brought amid high prices for the national food staple. Additionally, nations traditionally recognised as major rice exporters have strategically transitioned into rice importers with an aim to safeguard their domestic rice stocks. This shift leads to a significant reliance on rice imports to fulfill internal demands, shaping a new paradigm in global rice supply chains.

 

 

The impact of El Niño led India to impose a ban on the export of non-basmati rice in order to stabilise the rising domestic prices. Consequently, the importers have shifted their focus to the next major suppliers: Thailand and Viet Nam. This shift has triggered a significant increase in the rice prices in these two countries. Prices in Thailand, where no export restrictions have been introduced, have soared by roughly 20% as domestic supplies tightened while those in Viet Nam have also risen by 22%. Despite rising prices, the rice exports have still increased. For example, in November 2023, Thailand's rice exports were 1.007 million tonnes, worth 645 million USD according to Thai Rice Exporters Association, while Viet Nam's exports increased to 332 thousand tonnes, worth 219 million USD according to Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development of the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam.

 

 

The consequences of the El Niño highlight the importance of monitoring and addressing climate-related challenges to ensure the stability of global food supplies. In this regard, governments, meteorological agencies, and local communities have collaboratively implemented a range of measures to adapt and prepare for potential impacts. These comprehensive strategies include the establishment of robust early warning systems, crucial improvements to infrastructure, and the widespread promotion of sustainable agricultural practices.

 

 

Taking Thailand as an example, the government has launched rainmaking operations and taken other drought-fighting steps to deal with a severe water shortage. Meanwhile, the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives has actively advised and encouraged farmers to diversify their crops by cultivating drought-resistant varieties. Besides, in China, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs provided a guide to help local authorities cope with the impact of the El Niño weather phenomenon. Early inspection and maintenance of irrigation systems were suggested to prevent and reduce possible damage to crops suffering from the drought such as winter wheat in northern China. Local authorities have been required to strengthen monitoring and early warnings of disasters, prepare enough agricultural material and equipment, and pool efforts to prevent and alleviate disasters.

 

 

International organisations, including the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), World Food Programme (WFP), and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), have called for joint action and proactive measures to confront the formidable challenges. The focus of joint initiatives extends to enhancing regional preparedness, advancing early warning systems, and reinforcing anticipatory action measures. Meanwhile, the regional cooperations such as the ASEAN Plus Three Emergency Rice Reserve (APTERR), the ASEAN Coordinating Centre for Humanitarian Assistance on Disaster Management (AHA Centre) as well as its relevant agencies have been working closely with their member countries in supporting the countries grappling with or impacted by climatic phenomena. Each organisation has deployed assistance based on its specific mechanisms and conditions, including lack of food security. These strategies could contribute to building a more resilient and adaptable agricultural sector, which could provide a foundation for long-term climate resilience.

 

 

Bussapailyn Shimphalee*

31 January 2024

 

 

* 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.

 

References

Bangkok Post. (2023). Farmers braced for B48bn crop damage. https://www.bangkokpost.com/business/general/2663221/farmers-braced-for-b48bn-crop-damage.

 

Bangkok Post. (2023). Indonesia's rice production disrupted by El Nino, raising inflation. https://www.bangkokpost.com/business/general/2678556.

 

Freepik. Paddy in harvest,the golden yellow paddy in hand, farmer carrying paddy on hand, rice. https://www.freepik.com/free-photo/paddy-harvest-golden-yellow-paddy-hand-farmer-carrying-paddy-hand-rice_14778462.htm#page=6&query=rice&position=38&from_view=search&track=sph&uuid=c08e72ad-4866-4474-85cf-911a83766365.

 

International Food Policy Research Institute. (2023). Global rice markets face stresses from El Niño, India export restrictions. https://www.ifpri.org/blog/global-rice-markets-face-stresses-el-ni%C3%B1o-india-export-restrictions.

 

Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs of the People’s Republic of China. (2023).  Preparation for El Nino urged in agriculture. http://english.moa.gov.cn/news_522/202312/t20231219_301301.html.

 

Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development. (2023). Vietnam rice exports exceeded the 4 billion USD mark for the first time. https://www.mard.gov.vn/en/Pages/vietnam-rice-exports-exceeded-the-4-billion-usd-mark-for-the-first-time.aspx?item=11.

 

Nikkei Asia. (2023). Drought-hit Thailand turns to cloud seeding to offset El Nino. https://asia.nikkei.com/Spotlight/Environment/Drought-hit-Thailand-turns-to-cloud-seeding-to-offset-El-Nino2.

 

Nikkei Asia. (2023). Higher rice prices may trigger another global wave of food anxiety. https://asia.nikkei.com/Business/Agriculture/Higher-rice-prices-may-trigger-another-global-wave-of-food-anxiety.

 

Reliefweb. (2023). FAO and partners join forces to mitigate the impact of El Nino in the ASEAN region. https://reliefweb.int/report/world/fao-and-partners-join-forces-mitigate-impact-el-nino-asean-region.

 

The Nation. (2024). Thailand set to surpass 2023 rice export target as November figures surge. https://www.nationthailand.com/thailand/economy/40034543.

 

World Grain. (2023). Philippines seeks more rice imports. https://www.world-grain.com/articles/19304-philippines-seeks-more-rice-imports.

 

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