El Niño Phenomenon Disrupts Global Food Security

by Ella

The ongoing El Niño weather phenomenon, marked by elevated sea surface temperatures in the central and eastern tropical Pacific Ocean, is causing significant disruptions in global rainfall patterns. These alterations in precipitation, with some regions experiencing excessive rainfall and others facing extreme dry spells, are expected to have mixed consequences for food production and are projected to result in 110 million people requiring food assistance, as reported by scientists affiliated with the Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET).

El Niño functions as a natural climate event, akin to a boulder obstructing a stream’s flow, causing disturbances in atmospheric circulation that lead to shifts in rainfall patterns. Wetter conditions are anticipated in the southern United States and the Horn of Africa, while drier conditions are expected in southern Africa, Latin America, Australia, and portions of southeastern Asia.


This year’s El Niño event, forecasted to strengthen through the end of 2023 before dissipating by mid-2024, is foreseen to exacerbate food insecurity in specific regions. The map, developed by partners of FEWS NET, illustrates the anticipated impact of El Niño on essential commodity crops, including wheat, maize (corn), rice, soybeans, and sorghum. The map’s creation was based on an analysis of historical crop yields and climate data spanning from 1961 to 2020, with contributions from scientists affiliated with NASA Harvest, NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, NOAA, the University of Maryland, and the University of California Santa Barbara’s Climate Hazards Center.


Weston Anderson, an assistant research scientist within the FEWS NET science team, highlighted the extensive influence of El Niño on crop yields, stating, “El Niño events are estimated to affect crop yields on at least a quarter of global croplands. And while there’s uncertainty in how crop yields will be impacted this year because they vary from one El Niño event to another, we know how the dice are loaded.”


Historical analysis indicates that El Niño typically leads to diminished maize yields in southern Africa and Central America due to drought. Wheat yields in Australia and rice yields in Southeast Asia are also expected to decrease. Conversely, global soybean yields generally see improvement during El Niño events. The phenomenon’s above-average rainfall is forecasted to facilitate the gradual recovery from three-year droughts in significant portions of the Horn of Africa and Afghanistan.


Food security analysts at FEWS NET develop scenarios to assess how regional variations in rainfall—whether deficits or surpluses—affect crop yields and, consequently, food security. This information is crucial for aiding the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) in understanding food assistance and humanitarian requirements, particularly in regions where many individuals depend on cultivating crops for their daily sustenance.

This dependency on agriculture is particularly notable in parts of southern Africa, which has recently been identified as a region of concern by FEWS NET. Negative impacts of El Niño are typically most pronounced in southeastern African areas, including Zimbabwe, southern Zambia, southern and central Mozambique, and northeastern South Africa. These regions have frequently experienced below-average rainfall and higher-than-normal daytime temperatures during crucial phases of the growing season in previous moderate to strong El Niño years.

Maize, a staple cereal crop, holds immense importance in southern Africa, accounting for nearly 70% of the region’s cereal production. Past El Niño events have resulted in maize production deficits in countries like Zimbabwe and South Africa, with average shortfalls ranging from 10% to 15% compared to expected yields. In certain years, deficits have exceeded 50%, triggering substantial regional food price surges. In southern Madagascar, the 2023 maize harvests have already underperformed due to cyclones and irregular rainfall.



Wellfoodrecipes is a professional gourmet portal, the main columns include gourmet recipes, healthy diet, desserts, festival recipes, meat and seafood recipes, etc.

【Contact us: [email protected]

Copyright © 2023