La Nina brings cheers, Australia wheat crop to flourish

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Australia’s wheat crop is expected to flourish and coffee cherries in Vietnam may receive much-needed rains after a brief yet severe dry spell as the La Nina weather phenomenon develops.

La Nina, which normally follows an El Nino event, is linked with increased probability of wetter conditions in the western Pacific, particularly in eastern Australia and Asia, and drier conditions in South America.

As a result, Indonesia may see some rainfall during the dry season and rice farmers in Thailand could expect ample water supply as the dry season ends, industry sources said on Thursday. In India, the monsoon is progressing and government officials are still assessing the impact of La Nina on crops.

“Some areas in Indonesia have entered the dry season, but this year, we experience a wet dry season,” said Hendro Santoso, the head of climate forecast at the Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysic Agency in Jakarta.

“This is because sea surface in Indonesia is still warm which triggers higher evaporation. Also, El Nino is weakening and progressing toward La Nina,” he added.

Sporadic rains hit parts of Sumatra, Borneo as well as the main island of Java but there were no reports of damage to crops. Indonesia is the world’s largest palm oil producer, the third-largest for cocoa and the second-biggest producer of robusta beans.

The El Nino in Asia, which is the world’s biggest supplier of palm oil and rubber and a key producer of coffee, sugar, cocoa and rice, has brought hotter weather to farms and plantations, drying out trees and curbing yields.

Historically, about 35 to 40 percent of El Nino events are followed by a La Nina within the same year.

La Nina brings joy to Australian farmers, who are sowing their winter crop that includes wheat and barley, before harvests begin in late 2010. Australia is the world’s fourth largest wheat exporter.

“Any rain before October is hugely beneficial to yields,” said Frank Drum, an agri-economist at National Australia Bank.

“The big benefit that we will have this year is the vast majority of the crop went in a little bit earlier, which means the yield loss that we’ve experienced in the last few years when there’s been a shorter growing period, won’t be a problem this season.”

Forecasts for Australia’s 2010/11 wheat crop range from 20.5 million to 22.5 million tonnes but will likely be raised due to soaking rains in the first week of June, that replenished drying fields in eastern Australia.


While the dry spell in the first half of May curbed the size of coffee cherries in Vietnam’s Central Highlands coffee belt, too much rain could also have a negative impact on the crop. Vietnam is the world’s largest robusta producer.

“It’s not necessary that La Nina always follows El Nino, but we keep an eye on heavy rains that could fall from late August,” a state forecaster said by telephone from Buon Ma Thuot, Daklak’s capital.

In neighboring Thailand, the rainy season would start in July, with more rains expected in the following month.

“Rains should start falling in some areas in June and July. However, the average rainfall is likely to remain low,” said Somchai Baimoung, Deputy Director General of the Department of Meteorology.

The downpour is likely to benefit rice but excessive rains could affect sugar crushing later this year. Thailand is the world’s biggest rice exporter and the second largest for sugar.

With a dry-spell at the beginning of the year and the prospect of excessive rains in October, traders and senior officials said they expected Thai 2010/11 sugar crop output flat at around 6.8-7.0 million tonnes.

With reporting by Ho Binh Minh in HANOI, Apornrath Phoonphongphiphat in BANGKOK, Fitri Wulandari in JAKARTA, Bruce Hextall in SYDNEY, and Ratnajyoti Dutta in NEW DELHI; Editing by Himani Sarkar