Rice crops are being threatened by El Nino after grain supplies were disrupted by the war in Ukraine

Rice crops are being threatened by El Nino after grain supplies were disrupted by the war in Ukraine
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Villagers plant rice in a paddy field on the outskirts of Lahore, Pakistan, Thursday, June 8, 2023. Experts are warning that rice production across South and Southeast Asia is likely to suffer with the world heading into an El Nino. (AP Photo/K.M. Chaudary)
Rice crops are being threatened by El Nino after grain supplies were disrupted by the war in Ukraine
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A farmer harvests rice crop in a paddy field on the outskirts of Guwahati, India, on June 6, 2023. Experts are warning that rice production across South and Southeast Asia is likely to suffer with the world heading into an El Nino. (AP)
Rice crops are being threatened by El Nino after grain supplies were disrupted by the war in Ukraine
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Farmers work in a paddy field on the outskirts of Guwahati, India, on June 6, 2023. Experts are warning that rice production across South and Southeast Asia is likely to suffer with the world heading into an El Nino. (AP Photo/Anupam Nath)
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Updated 14 July 2023
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Rice crops are being threatened by El Nino after grain supplies were disrupted by the war in Ukraine

Rice crops are being threatened by El Nino after grain supplies were disrupted by the war in Ukraine
  • An El Nino is a natural and occasional warming of part of the Pacific that shifts global weather patterns, and climate change is making them stronger

NEW DELHI: Warmer, drier weather because of an earlier than usual El Nino is expected to hamper rice production across Asia, hitting global food security in a world still reeling from the impacts of the war in Ukraine.

An El Nino is a natural, temporary and occasional warming of part of the Pacific that shifts global weather patterns, and climate change is making them stronger. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced this one in June, a month or two earlier than it usually does. This gives it time to grow. Scientists say there’s a one in four chance it will expand to supersized levels.
That’s bad news for rice farmers, particularly in Asia where 90 percent of the world’s rice is grown and eaten, since a strong El Nino typically means less rainfall for the thirsty crop.
Past El Ninos have resulted in extreme weather, ranging from drought to floods.
There are already “alarm bells,” said Abdullah Mamun, a research analyst at the International Food Policy Research Institute or IFPRI, pointing to rising rice prices due to shortfalls in production. The average price of 5 percent broken white rice in June in Thailand was about 16 percent higher than last year’s average.
Global stocks have run low since last year, in part due to devastating floods in Pakistan, a major rice exporter. This year’s El Nino may amplify other woes for rice-producing countries, such as reduced availability of fertilizer due to the war and some countries’ export restrictions on rice. Myanmar, Cambodia and Nepal are particularly vulnerable, warned a recent report by research firm BMI.
“There is uncertainty over the horizon,” Mamun said.
Recently, global average temperatures have hit record highs. Monsoon rains over India were lighter than usual by the end of June. Indonesian President Joko Widodo on Monday asked his ministers to anticipate a long dry season. And in the Philippines, authorities are carefully managing water to protect vulnerable areas.
Some countries are bracing for food shortages. Indonesia was among the worst hit by India’s decision to restrict rice exports last year after less rain fell than expected and a historic heat wave scorched wheat, raising worries that domestic food prices would surge.
Last month, India said it would send over 1 million metric tons (1.1 million US tons) to Indonesia, Senegal and Gambia to help them meet “their food security needs.”
Fertilizer is another crucial variable. Last year China, a major producer, restricted exports to keep domestic prices in check after fertilizers were among exports affected by sanctions on Russian ally Belarus for human rights violations. Sanctions on Russia for its invasion of Ukraine don’t specifically target fertilizers but the war has disrupted shipments of the three main chemical fertilizers: potash, phosphorus, and nitrogen.
Bangladesh found suppliers in Canada to make up for lost potash shipments from Belarus, but many countries are still scrambling to find new sources.
Farmers like Abu Bakar Siddique, who cultivates 1.2 hectares (3 acres) in northern Bangladesh, had enough fertilizer to keep his yields steady last year. But less rainfall meant he had to rely more on electric pumps for his winter harvest at a time of power shortages due to war-related shortfalls of diesel and coal.
“This increased my costs,” he said.
Each El Nino is different, but historical trends suggest scarce rainfall in South and Southeast Asia will parch the soil, causing cascading effects in coming years, said Beau Damen, a natural resources officer with the Food and Agriculture Organization based in Bangkok, Thailand. Some countries, like Indonesia, may be more vulnerable in the early stages of the phenomenon, he said.
Kusnan, a farmer in Indonesia’s East Java, said rice farmers there have tried to anticipate that by planting earlier so that when the El Nino hits, the rice might be ready for harvest and not needing so much water. Kusnan, who like many Indonesians uses only one name, said he hoped high yields last year would help offset any losses this year.
Indonesian President Joko Widodo has stressed the need to manage water well in the coming weeks, warning that various factors including export restrictions and fertilizer shortages could combine with the El Nino to “make this a particularly damaging event.”
Baldev Singh, a 52-year-old farmer in northern India’s Punjab state, is already worried. He typically sows rice from late June until mid-July, but then needs the monsoon rains to flood the paddies. Less than a tenth of the usual rainfall had come by early this month, and then floods ravaged northern India, battering young crops that had just been planted.
The government has encouraged Punjab farmers to grow rice along with their traditional wheat crops since the 1960s to improve India’s food security, even though farmers like Singh don’t typically eat rice and irrigation of rice fields has drained the area’s aquifers. But he keeps growing it, counting on the certainty of government purchases at fixed prices.
With rain scarce, Singh may need to dig wells. Last year, he dug down 200 feet (60 meters) to find water.
“Rice has been our ruin ... I don’t know what will happen in the future,” he said.


Philippine authorities say 7 dead after storm

Philippine authorities say 7 dead after storm
Updated 28 May 2024
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Philippine authorities say 7 dead after storm

Philippine authorities say 7 dead after storm
  • The Southeast Asian nation sees an average of 20 storms annually, often resulting in heavy rains, strong winds, and deadly landslides

MANILA: Philippine authorities said at least seven people had been killed by tropical storm Ewiniar, which hit the country on the weekend, and President Ferdinand Marcos Jr said on Tuesday that search and rescue efforts would continue.
Ewiniar brought strong winds and heavy rain in provinces south of the capital, shutting down airports and seaports and disrupting power supply.
The storm was heading toward east coast of Japan on Tuesday, with sustained winds of up to 130 kilometers per hour (80 mph) and gustiness of up to 160 kph (100 mph).
A 14-year-old girl was confirmed dead in southern Misamis Oriental province after a tree fell on a parked vehicle she was boarding. Another student was injured, the national disaster agency said in a report.
In Quezon province, east of the capital, six people were reported dead, police major Elizabeth Capistrano told DWPM radio station. Among the deceased were two men, aged 56 and 22, who drowned, and a 39-year-old man who was hit by a falling tree.
Marcos, speaking ahead of a state visit to Brunei, said the storm affected nearly 27,000 people, and disrupted operations of three airports and nine seaports over the weekend.
Ewiniar was the first tropical storm to hit the Philippines this year. The Southeast Asian nation sees an average of 20 storms annually, often resulting in heavy rains, strong winds, and deadly landslides.


Biden tells Israel to protect civilians after Rafah strike

Biden tells Israel to protect civilians after Rafah strike
Updated 28 May 2024
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Biden tells Israel to protect civilians after Rafah strike

Biden tells Israel to protect civilians after Rafah strike
  • Biden has faced increasing pressure from within his own party to scale back support for Israel

WASHINGTON: The Biden administration told Israel to take every precaution to protect civilians after a military strike in Rafah killed dozens of Palestinians, as it faced calls from some fellow Democrats to halt military shipments to Israel.
“Israel has a right to go after Hamas, and we understand this strike killed two senior Hamas terrorists who are responsible for attacks against Israeli civilians,” a National Security Council spokesperson said. “But as we’ve been clear, Israel must take every precaution possible to protect civilians.
Biden has faced increasing pressure from within his own party to scale back support for Israel, even before the airstrike on Sunday night that set tents and rickety metal shelters ablaze in a Rafah camp, killing 45 people.
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a prominent Democratic lawmaker in the House of Representatives, on Monday called the strike “an indefensible atrocity,” adding in a social media post that “it is long past time for the President to live up to his word and suspend military aid.”
“Horrific and gut wrenching images coming out of Rafah last night,” Representative Ayanna Pressley said in a social media post. “How much longer will the US stand by while the Israeli military slaughters and mutilates Palestinian babies?“
Representative Rashida Tlaib, the only Palestinian-American serving in Congress, called Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a “genocidal maniac.”
Netanyahu on Monday said the strike was not intended to cause civilian casualties but went “tragically wrong.”
The NSC spokesperson said the US government was “actively engaging” with the Israeli military and others on the ground to assess what happened.
Almost half of Democratic voters disapprove of Biden’s handling of the Israel-Hamas war, according to a recent poll from Reuters/Ipsos.
Weeks of campus protests about the war have added to the pressure, and wider demands for a permanent ceasefire have put Biden’s reelection campaign on the defensive.


Canada pledges more visas for Gazans, says it’s ‘horrified’ by Israeli attack in Rafah

Canada pledges more visas for Gazans, says it’s ‘horrified’ by Israeli attack in Rafah
Updated 28 May 2024
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Canada pledges more visas for Gazans, says it’s ‘horrified’ by Israeli attack in Rafah

Canada pledges more visas for Gazans, says it’s ‘horrified’ by Israeli attack in Rafah

OTTAWA: Canada said on Monday it will issue visas to 5,000 Gazans, more than it originally pledged, and said it was “horrified” by an Israeli airstrike in Rafah that triggered a blaze causing 45 deaths.

The visas for Canadians’ relatives living in the enclave represent a five-fold increase from the 1,000 temporary resident visas allotted under a special program that Canada announced in December.

“While movement out of Gaza is not currently possible, the situation may change at any time. With this cap increase, we will be ready to help more people as the situation evolves,” Immigration Minister Marc Miller said.

A spokesperson for Miller said 448 Gazans had been issued a temporary visa, including 254 under a policy not related to the special visa program, and 41 have arrived in Canada so far.

An Israeli airstrike late on Sunday night triggered a fire in a tent camp in the southern Gaza city of Rafah, prompting an outcry from global leaders including from Canada.

“We are horrified by strikes that killed Palestinian civilians in Rafah,” Canada’s Foreign Minister Melanie Joly said in a statement, adding that Canada does not support an Israeli military operation in Rafah.

“This level of human suffering must come to an end. We demand an immediate ceasefire,” Joly said, echoing global leaders who urged the implementation of a World Court order to halt Israel’s assault.

Canada has repeatedly supported calls for a ceasefire in Gaza, including at the United Nations.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said earlier that the strike in Rafah had not been intended to cause civilian casualties and that something had gone “tragically wrong.” Israel’s military, which is trying to eliminate Hamas in Gaza, said it was investigating.

Nearly 36,000 Palestinians have been killed in Israel’s offensive in Gaza, according to the local health ministry, and an estimated 1.7 million people, more than 75 percent of Gaza’s population, have been displaced, according to the UN Palestinian refugee agency UNRWA.

Israel launched its military campaign after Hamas-led militants attacked southern Israeli communities on Oct. 7, killing around 1,200 people and seizing more than 250 hostages, according to Israeli tallies.


Spain pledges €1bn in military aid to Kyiv

Spain pledges €1bn in military aid to Kyiv
Updated 27 May 2024
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Spain pledges €1bn in military aid to Kyiv

Spain pledges €1bn in military aid to Kyiv

MADRID: Spain on Monday pledged one billion euros in military aid to Ukraine as Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez and Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky signed a security deal in Madrid.

The deal “includes a commitment for one billion euros in military aid for 2024,” Sanchez told a joint news conference

“It will allow Ukraine to boost its capabilities including its essential air defense systems to protect its civilians, cities and infrastructure which are still suffering indiscriminate attacks as seen this weekend in Kharkiv,” he said, referring to a Russian strike on the northeastern city that killed at least 16 people.

Zelensky’s visit comes as Ukraine has been battling a Russian ground offensive in the Kharkiv region which began on May 10 in Moscow’s biggest territorial advance in 18 months.

With the Russian assault now in its third year, Ukraine has been pleading for more weapons for its outgunned and outnumbered troops, notably seeking help to address its lack of air defense systems.

According to El Pais newspaper, the deal would include new Patriot missiles and Leopard tanks. Zelensky has already signed bilateral security agreements with several countries including France, Germany and the UK.

Sanchez said the security agreement would cover a range of a different issues.

“The agreement is based on a comprehensive overview of security and covers various areas such as military, humanitarian and financial support, as well as collaboration between Spanish and Ukrainian defense industries, as well as help with reconstruction and de-mining among other things,” he said.


Italy says violence against civilians in Gaza ‘no longer justifiable’

Italy says violence against civilians in Gaza ‘no longer justifiable’
Updated 27 May 2024
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Italy says violence against civilians in Gaza ‘no longer justifiable’

Italy says violence against civilians in Gaza ‘no longer justifiable’
  • Defense Minister Guido Crosett said ‘We are watching the situation with despair’

ROME: Italy said on Monday Israeli attacks on Palestinian civilians in Gaza were no longer justifiable in one of the strongest criticisms Rome has made so far against Israel’s campaign.

“There is an increasingly difficult situation, in which the Palestinian people are being squeezed without regard for the rights of innocent men, women and children who have nothing to do with Hamas and this can no longer be justified,” Defense Minister Guido Crosetto told SkyTG24 TV.

“We are watching the situation with despair.”

Crosetto said Italy agreed in principle with the Israeli response to the Oct. 7 assault by Hamas militants on southern Israeli communities, but he added that a difference had to be made between the militant group and the Palestinian people.

On Saturday, Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni and Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani met Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Mustafa in Rome, reiterating their support for a ceasefire and urging Hamas to release Israeli hostages.

Italy has repeatedly said that Israel had a right to defend itself from Hamas. Last week, Rome said an International Criminal Court prosecutor’s decision to seek an arrest warrant for Israeli leaders was “unacceptable.”