UPDATE 1-Australia's weather bureau says 2010-11 La Nina has ended
* End of La Nina to favour Asian crops
* Conditions neutral between La Nina, El Nino
* Possibly drier Australian winter, spring (Adds detail, quotes, background)
By Michael Perry
SYDNEY, May 25 (Reuters) - The devastating 2010-11 La Nina weather event has ended, said Australia's weather bureau, after bringing record flooding to the country, disrupting major coal exports and destroying thousands of homes, and damaging crops in Asia.
"The 2010-11 La Nina event has ended, with climate indicators of the El Nino, the Southern Oscillation, having returned to average levels," the Bureau of Meteorology said on Wednesday.
"Climate models surveyed by the Bureau of Meteorology suggest that the Pacific Ocean will continue to warm over the coming months, with neutral conditions likely to persist through the Austral winter, that is, neither La Nina nor El Nino."
The 2010-11 La Nina was one of the strongest on record, resulting in flooding in eastern Australia. It disrupted coal exports and was blamed for heavy rains which hampered crop and mine operations in Indonesia. [ID:nL3E7CB1WK] [ID:nL3E7G90GU]
News of the end to La Nina will be welcomed in India, which has forecast the June-September monsoon to end on schedule, strengthening the prospects of a plentiful farm output in 2011.
The monsoon irrigates some 40 percent of farms in India, the world's second-biggest producer of rice, wheat, sugar and cotton, and is crucial for the livelihoods of many of the two-thirds of India's 1.2 billion people who live in rural areas.[ID:nL3E7G42TB]
Agriculture contributes around 14.6 percent to the trillion-dollar economy and rains can also impact inflation in the country, one of the world's biggest consumers of farm products.
The end of the western Pacific rain event will also be welcomed by Southeast Asian rice producers and governments, as it will ease inflation fears over escalating prices of the food staple.
Asia is forecast to record 3 percent growth to 434 million tonnes of rice in 2011, says the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation.
"Peaking between late 2010 and early 2011, this La Nina event was one of the strongest observed, in a record dating from the late 1800s," said the weather bureau.
The bureau said that while conditions were currently neutral, there were indications of less rainfall over southeast Australia during the southern hemisphere winter and spring.
Australia is one of the world's top wheat exporting nations and has had a good start to its 2011/12 winter crop season, as grain growers accelerate planting, helped by timely rains. [ID:nL3E7GN02N]
La Nina events bring increased rains to the western Pacific and drier conditions to the eastern, while El Nino conditions are reverse, often bringing drought conditions to Australia.
(Reporting by Michael Perry; Editing by Gyles Beckford)
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