Food security concerns for large numbers of people in several Asian countries following severe localized monsoon floods
- Severe localized floods during the first half of the 2016 monsoon season have affected large numbers of people, causing deaths and injuries, loss of livestock and food supplies, and damage to housing and infrastructure
- While the severe floods have had large negative impacts, the above-average rains helped alleviate dryness in areas affected by El Niño in the 2015/16 agricultural season, beneffitting planting and early development of the 2016 main season crops
- Although some severe localized crop losses are likely in several countries, overall production prospects for the 2016 main season remain positive in the subregion
Southeast Asia is prone to floods during the monsoon season that normally extends from late May to September. This year, however, above-average monsoon rains,coupled with a succession of typhoons and tropical storms from June to early August, have caused severe localized floods in several countries in the subregion, resulting in the loss of hundreds of lives, displacement of millions of people and much damage to agriculture and infrastructure. Losses of livestock, stored food and other belongings have also been reported. Affected countries include Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, India, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. While the severe floods have had large negative impacts, abundant rains brought relief to areas affected by the El Niño-induced dryness during 2015/16 agricultural season (see Figure 1).
The floods occurred when the 2016 main season cereal crops, mainly paddy and maize, had just been planted or were still being sown. A comprehensive evaluation of the flood damage is not yet available, but early-planted crops in lowland areas are likely to have been affected the most. However, although severe localized crop losses are likely in several countries, the overall impact on the 2016 main season crop in the subregion is expected to be limited, as the above- average rains have been beneficial overall for planting operations and early crop development in most countries.
Furthermore, current forecasts point to a 55-60 percent likelihood of La Niña manifesting during the last quarter of the year, with a slightly lower chance that the onset may occur during August-October. As La Niña is historically associated with increased rains in some parts of the subregion, this could benefit the 2016 main season crop development and improve water reservoir levels for the 2016 irrigated secondary season crop in Northern Hemisphere countries.
In Southern Hemisphere countries, La Niña may prove beneficial for the ongoing 2016 secondary season crop and planting of the 2017 main crop. As such, and assuming no major setbacks during the remainder of the season, FAO’s current outlook for the 2016 cereal crops in the subregion is positive. However, close monitoring is warranted, particularly considering that abundant precipitation related to La Niña could also raise the potential for flooding in parts.