Above-Average Monsoons in Southeast Asia Bring Flooding

The monsoon season in Southeast Asia extends from May through September. According to a special report from the FAO's Global Information and Early Warning System (GIEWS), this year's monsoon season has seen above-average rains, along with a series of typhoons and tropical storms from June through early August. These conditions have caused severe flooding in several of the Food Security Portal's prioritized countries , resulting in loss of life, displacement of large populations, damage to farms and infrastructure, and loss of livestock and stored food.

In Bangladesh, monsoon rains were particularly heavy from mid-July through early August, causing localized flooding and landslides in the northern and central parts of the country. These conditions have impacted an estimated 3.7 million people in the area. Southern coastal areas of the country were also impacted by flooding due to a tropical cyclone in mid-May. Harvest of the boro paddy rice crop, which makes up around 55 percent of Bangladesh's annual production, was underway at the time of the flooding, and the aman paddy rice crop (accounting for 38 percent of production) was being planted. However, as of July, the official estimates from the Network for Information, Response, and Preparedness Activities on Disaster did see significant crop damage.

In China, flooding has impacted the central and southern regions, negatively affecting 7.3 million hectares of farmland. Harvest of the winter wheat crop was underway at the time of the flooding; this crop accounts for almost 95 percent of the country's total wheat production. The excessive rainfall and subsequent outbreak of pests has negatively impacted the winter wheat crop and may also have reduced yields of the early spring wheat crop, which was being planted when the floods occurred. The China National Grains and Oils Information Centre has estimated that 2016 wheat production will fall by 1.6 million tonnes from 2015 levels; however, this production total is still the second highest on record. Flooding also impacted the production of paddy rice; however, increased yields in areas not affected by the flooding should offset these losses.

India has experienced above-average monsoon rains since July; this precipitation has led to flooding and landslides in the northeastern part of the country. As many as 4.2 million people have been affected in the state of Bihar alone. Several staple crops were being planted at the time of the flooding, including paddy rice, maize, sorghum, and millet. A full assessment of the crop damage is still being conducted, but GIEWS reports that as many as 200,000 hectares of farmland has been negatively affected in Bihar. However, the increased rainfall appears to have been beneficial for main season cereal production; as of early August, these crops were estimated up by 7 percent compared to 2015 levels.

The report emphasizes that crop losses, while they could be severe in some areas, are expected to remain localized; overall production in the sub-region should still be good. However, the upcoming La Niña cycle (October-December) will need to be monitored closely, as this weather pattern historically brings increased precipitation in the region, which could mean additional flooding.