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AMIS highlights unprecedented climate risks to global grain harvests

17 May 20243 min reading

The latest report from the Agricultural Market Information System (AMIS) highlights significant challenges facing global agriculture due to unprecedented climate patterns. The report details how extreme weather conditions, driven by the strong 2023-2024 El Niño and climate change, have already constrained yields in both the southern and northern hemispheres, with further impacts anticipated as a potential La Niña event approaches.

In the southern hemisphere, the harvesting of maize and soybeans is progressing, but yields have been limited by a lack of rain earlier in the season and high temperatures. In the northern hemisphere, winter crops have similarly suffered from insufficient precipitation, while spring sowing is currently underway. AMIS reports that ‘record-high temperatures since the latter half of 2023 reflect the influences of the strong 2023-2024 El Niño and climate change.’

As the world transitions from El Niño, forecasts indicate a likely return to La Niña, accompanied by continued extremely high global temperatures. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Climate Prediction Center forecasts a 60% chance of La Niña developing between June and August, increasing to 80% or greater from August to October. 

Impact on Global Agriculture

The potential La Niña event could bring varied precipitation patterns globally. AMIS outlines that should La Niña materialize, drier-than-average conditions are likely in regions such as East Africa, Central and South Asia, southern South America, the southern United States, northern Mexico, and eastern East Asia. Conversely, above-average precipitation is expected in parts of Southeast Asia, Australia, Southern Africa, Central America, and northern South America.

Extreme high temperatures are also likely to continue, exacerbating drought stress in regions expected to experience drier conditions. “Last year was the warmest on record since global records began due to the strong El Niño and climate change," notes the AMIS report. This trend is expected to persist, with 2024 potentially ranking among the top five warmest years on record.

Crop-Specific Yield Impacts

Historically, La Niña events have varied impacts on crop yields. The report indicates that soybeans typically see slightly lower than average global yields (up to 2% decrease), while rice yields tend to increase slightly (up to 2%). Wheat and maize yields are less affected at the global level but show regional variations.

  • Wheat: Positively impacted in Argentina, southern Brazil, Morocco, Portugal, Australia, China, and India; negatively impacted in parts of the United States, East Africa, and Central Asia.
  • Maize: Positively impacted in parts of Southeastern Africa, China, India, and Thailand; negatively impacted in Argentina, Paraguay, Bolivia, and the US.
  • Rice: Positively impacted in China, India, Pakistan, Central Asia, Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand, southern Brazil, and Central America; negatively impacted in the Middle East, Bolivia, and the US.
  • Soybeans: Positively impacted in Brazil, Southern Africa, India, and China; negatively impacted in Argentina, Uruguay, and the US.

The AMIS report emphasizes that "the negative impacts tend to be lessened for irrigated crops compared to rainfed crops." However, the full extent of La Niña's impact combined with ongoing extreme temperatures will only become clear once the event fully develops.

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