Australia’s wheat crop threatened as La Nina climate indicator rises

A dirt road cuts through a wheat crop in a farm near Condobolin, 285 miles (489 km) west of Sydney in this file photo

By Colin Packham and Naveen Thukral

SYDNEY (Reuters) – The quality of Australia’s near-record wheat crop will likely be hit, as a sudden spike in a climate indicator shows there is a high chance of crop-damaging rains linked to a La Nina weather event over the next few months, analysts and traders said.

The La Nina – which brings cooler, wetter weather for much of Australia’s key wheat growing region on the east coast – had in 2010 decimated the region’s crop and downgraded the quality of the grain to animal feed.

As of now, Australia, the world’s fourth-largest exporter of wheat, is expected to harvest its second-largest crop on record during the 2016/17 season after near-perfect conditions across much of the country, the country’s chief commodity forecaster confirmed this week.

But with the Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) – that measures sea level pressure differences and is one of a number of indicators of a La Nina – rising to its highest level in two months, analysts and traders say the outlook for Australia’s silo-bursting supplies remains in doubt.

“The SOI after remaining in neutral range has risen above seven, a threshold for La Nina. Today it is at 11.8 which means there are higher chances of La Nina developing in the near future,” Rajesh Singla, head of agriculture research at Societe Generale, said on Friday.

“If there are excessive rains from La Nina in October and November, it could hit the quality of Australian wheat crop.”

Australia needs dry weather in October to ensure good quality and to get the crop ready before the harvest at the end of the year.

Lower export supplies from Australia could support global wheat prices, which are mired near 10-year lows in a world market that is flush with supplies following a bumper output in the northern hemisphere.

However, Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) said the SOI reflects more unseasonably warm waters around Australia’s north rather than an imminent La Nina.

Wet conditions are likely, but not in the same intensity as five years ago, the BOM added.

(Reporting by Colin Packham; Editing by Himani Sarkar)

Weather forecasters see likelihood of La Nina August – Sept.

graphics showing the differences in temperature of an El Nino and El Nina

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Following a damaging El Nino weather period, a U.S. government weather forecaster on Thursday said the La Nina weather phenomenon is favored to develop during August through October 2016.

The Climate Prediction Center (CPC), an agency of the National Weather Service, said in its monthly forecast there is a 55 percent to 60 percent chance that the La Nina weather phenomenon will develop during the fall and winter of 2016/17.

Last month, the CPC forecast that La Nina was favored to develop during the Northern Hemisphere’s summer with a 75 percent chance of it developing in the fall and winter.

La Nina, which is typically less damaging than El Nino, is characterized by unusually cold ocean temperatures in the equatorial Pacific Ocean. It tends to occur unpredictably every two to seven years. Severe occurrences have been linked to floods and droughts.

Near-to below-average surface temperatures across the eastern equatorial Pacific Ocean were observed during the past month, the CPC said.

Last month, the agency said that El Nino conditions, a warming of sea-surface temperatures in the Pacific that has been linked to crop damage, fires and flash floods over the past year, had largely disappeared.

(Reporting by Marcy Nicholson; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Frances Kerry)