Royal Ploughing Day, held on 17 May, marks the start of the rice planting season in Thailand, but researchers say El Niño could hurt rice output.
El Niño is a climate pattern that occurs when the Pacific Ocean warms up. This can lead to drought conditions in Southeast Asia, which could reduce the amount of water available for rice cultivation.
If the impacts of El Niño are moderate, it is expected that the in-season rice output in 2023 will decline by roughly 4.1-6.0 percent or 25.1-25.6 million tons, according to Kasikorn Research Center.
If the 7.6 million tons of off-season rice output are added to that figure, the total rice output in 2023 will likely be sufficient for domestic consumption and exports.
However, if there is severe drought or intermittent rain, the in-season rice output may decline substantially, thus Thailand’s total rice production may be lower than prior estimates.
Looking into 2024, due to the impacts of El Niño, it is expected that the amount of water accumulated in dams since the end of 2023 for the cultivation of 2024 off-season rice will decline.
Moreover, as El Niño is projected to persist, Thailand’s total rice output may fall further. Therefore, water management planning is urgently needed amid the potential shortage of water for agricultural purposes in the future. Therefore, water management planning is urgently needed amid the potential shortage of water for agricultural purposes in the future.
The government of Thailand has taken some steps to mitigate the impact of El Niño on rice production. These include providing financial assistance to farmers to help them purchase water-saving irrigation equipment and to develop drought-resistant rice varieties. However, more needs to be done to ensure that Thailand’s rice production is not severely affected.