2015–2016 El Niño
El Niño is the warm phase of the ENSO (El Niño-Southern Oscillation) cycle, which occurs in the Pacific Ocean. The cold phase is known as La Niña. These warm and cold phases, when occur in intensities above normal levels, can severely impact agricultural productivity (MOO).
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (or NOAA) Oceanic Niño Index (or ONI) measures El Niño and La Niña. The chart above shows that the current planting season experienced one of the worst El Niños since the late 1990s.
According to the USDA’s Commodities Intelligence Report dated June 24, 2016, the most recent El Niño created extreme drought in South Africa’s corn belt. As a result, ~1 million hectares of corn could not be planted. According to the USDA, the total corn output in South Africa due was cut by 50% compared to its five-year average due to El Niño in the current growing season.
Drought was also expected to affect Australia’s wheat belt, affecting wheat output. However, this season’s wheat yield was near its five-year average, according to the USDA.
El Niño can also cause excessive rain, which can also damage crops. In Argentina, excessive rains damaged the country’s soybean crops, which resulted in a yield growth of 9%. According to the USDA, this yield would be much higher without the El Niño effect.
In the final article in this series, let’s look at how crop production in the US performed in the current growing season.