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22 May 2023

Econ Digest

El Niño in 2023 may dent in-season rice output


        With the start of the 2023 rainy season and in-season rice cultivation in Thailand (after the annual Royal Ploughing Day), KResearch views that elevated rice prices and high demand in the global market have induced most farmers to grow this staple and has become an opportunity for Thailand to export more rice despite the rising production costs. However, a high chance that El Niño will develop in the second half of 2023 when rice plants require more water following their cultivation in May will likely hurt the in-season rice output.

        KResearch is of the view that if the impacts of El Niño are moderate, the in-season rice output in 2023 will decline by roughly 4.1-6.0%, with production of 25.1-25.6 million tons. If the 7.6 million tons of off-season rice output (or an increase of 23.4% YoY due to the favorable amount of accumulated water in dams) are added to that figure, the total rice output in 2023 will likely be around 32.7-33.2 million tons and sufficient for domestic consumption and exports, which are projected to increase over that reported in 2022. Nevertheless, if there is severe drought or intermittent rain, the in-season rice output may decline substantially, thus Thailand’s total rice production may be lower than previously estimated.

        Looking into 2024, the amount of water accumulated in dams since the end of 2023 for the cultivation of 2024 off-season rice is expected to decline due to the impacts of El Niño. Moreover, as El Niño is projected to persist, Thailand’s total rice output (off-season rice and in-season rice) may fall further in 2024. Therefore, water management planning is urgently needed.

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Econ Digest