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Article: South East Asia pineapple industry concerns over climate event

20 August 2020

El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) monitoring system changed from Neutral to La Niña Watch status on 30 July, with the Asean Especialied Meteorological Centre (ASMC), suggesting observer indicators hint at la Niña-like conditions developing within the next three months.

However, the ASMC also highlighted: "The spread of possible outcomes from the model is currently still too wide to indicate a consensus on the strength of the La Niña conditions and whether the conditions will be sustained for long enough to be declared a La Niña event."

La Niña conditions are associated with colder Pacific sea surface temperatures (SSTs) in the central and eastern Pacific, a decrease in cloudiness around or to the east of the international dateline (180°) and an increase in cloudiness in the west. Sub-surface temperatures in the eastern Pacific should also be colder than average.

An Ecuadorian tuna industry source noted in late July waters cooling off the Ecuadorian and Peruvian coast (FAO 87) resulted in fish migrating further seeking for warmer waters and tuna discharges at port reduced.

In south-east Asia region, La Niña is related to rains and floods, which influence the local agricultural output. In response to IHS Markit's Food & Agricultural Commodities enquiry, pineapple and sweetcorn industry sources from Thailand, Philippines and Indonesia seem to agree that the likelihood of La Niña event happening this year is not a major threat to their crops so far.

Thailand

According to some local pineapple and sweetcorn industry sources, there was no current talk among Thai authorities or the local media regarding the latest ASMC report as of 14 August.

"La Niña, usually meaning heavy rains and flash floods, is not an extraordinary meteorological event in this time of the year. However, I think our weather authorities are not good at predicting or reading the effects of La Niña or El Niño," one source said.

Referring to the Thai flooding in 2011, which had a huge impact on agriculture, a second source stated: "It only happens once in a lifetime, experts say. I also say that it had to do with wrong water management, as they kept too much water in the dam and released it at the wrong time, coinciding with heavy rains and high ocean tides."

Thailand's Rangsit University, Climate Change and Disaster Centre's director Seri Suprathit stated on a local TV show on August 12 there is a 70% likelihood Thailand's central, eastern and southern regions, especially on the central plains, experiencing flooding over the next two months - September and October. Ayutthaya province is expected to be hardest hit because of its limited water retention area in the Chao Phraya River basin, the Thai PBS World echoed.

Suprathit added that the floods this year will not be as bad as the catastrophic flooding of 2011, because excess water had been released through major dams in the north.

Pineapple crops, usually grown on higher ground, are overall less impacted by floods than other key agricultural plantings such as corn, rice or tapioca. However, excessive rainfall could result in wet and soggy soil, hampering harvesting.

Floods since late July were reported to have damaged sweetcorn plantations in the north of the country. Situation improved in the second week of August, as heavy rains transitioned to rain sprays and strong sunshine, benefiting plantings.

No negative impact - because of rainfall -has been reported on pineapple plantations to date (August 17). The ongoing raw material shortage situation, sharpened in the drought period, is expected to continue until December.

Indonesia

Pineapple plantings in Indonesia are currently benefiting from a "wet-dry season" so far, as a local industry source recently described. "Weather is really favorable this year for pineapple plantations. As opposed to last year, where rains stopped since mid-May onwards, this year is raining even in August, at least two times per week.

The Philippines

Current weather situation in the Philippines is described by sources as similar to that reported in Indonesia. "Right now we have more rain and raw material volume than usual at this time of the year".

The ENSO influence on pineapple crops in The Philippines had an impact on tonnages during 2018 and 2019. "I think the influence this year will not be that significant, as long as erosion does not affect the ability to harvest fruit on time. It may affect planting rate in the long term, but we can catch up on planting by doubling up once weather is more favorable."

"The Philippines is always at the worse end of La Niña against Indonesia and Thailand, as we are facing the Pacific Ocean. Cyclones helped during the El Niño period though, by cutting long drought spells. Anyway, we hope for the best this year, although preparing for the worst," the local industry source concluded.

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