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Impact of La-Nina on Indian Agriculture

La-Nina is a climate pattern in the Pacific Ocean that affects weather conditions. It generally occurs when the water temperature of the central and equatorial Pacific Ocean is cooler than the average temperature. During normal conditions in the Pacific Ocean, trade winds blow from the west along the equator, taking warm water from South America towards Asia. To replace the warm water, cold water rises from the bottom a process called upwelling. La-Nina breaks this normal condition, during this phase, a strong easterly current pushes the water towards the west, which cools the ocean surface. These oceanic and atmospheric phenomena typically develop between April and June and gain strength during October and February. Earlier took place during 2017-18. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), for the upcoming winter season from December 2021 to February 2022, there will be 87% chances of La-Nina.

Agriculture plays a crucial role in shaping the Indian economy. Agriculture along with its allied sectors is the largest source of livelihoods in India, particularly the rural populations. They are the main source of income and employment for a vast population. La-Nina is responsible for bringing cold air from Siberia and South China to the Indian subcontinent, which results in a north-south low-pressure system when it interacts with the tropical heating conditions here.

Increasing temperature gap between day and night temperature creates erratic winter conditions impacting agricultural practices in the Rabi season, especially the growth of wheat that is the principal cereal crop in north, northwest, and central India. Production of pulses also decreases. It also affects the productivity of cash crops such as sugarcane and coffee as coffee growth is extremely sensitive to variations in temperatures, also sugarcane production was highly affected during the previous La Nina events.

For the 2021-22, potential La-Nina event, The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has warned of crop losses and food insecurity in Asia, particularly India’s neighbor countries such as Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, and Iraq, besides South-East Asian nations. Countries in the Pacific and the Great Horn of Africa would also be affected, which can cause heavy rain and flooding in some parts of the world and drought in others. However, India is likely to stay unaffected in terms of crop losses. New Delhi stands to gain from the losses of cereal crops in these countries by exporting rice, maize, and wheat which may be good news. Only time can unravel how precise are these speculations.