El Nino and wheat crop 2016-2017

There is a significant correlation of winter in the northwestern region of Pakistan with El Nino that is causing excessive precipitation in northern and northwestern parts of the country in the winter. Based on an analysis of global meteorological data, a recent study has also suggested that El Nino may cause excessive precipitation in the Middle East. The recent cold conditions in the northern parts of the country may be attributed to El Nino, but it can also manifest itself in the form of drought-like conditions in the summer. To cope with the possibility of drought-like conditions, authorities should have a contingency plan to combat negative impacts, especially for rain-fed crops. So, from floods to longer-than-usual dry spells and more heatwaves, a variety of weather conditions is expected in the country due to presence of the enormous El Nino confronting this region, including Pakistan.

The changing weather pattern seems to be taking a toll on winter crops as there were no rains during the past two-and-half months and high temperatures are hindering timely sowing of wheat crop, the country’s main staple food. Only around one-third of the targeted area could be sown before November 20, which is considered an optimum time for completing wheat sowing in most parts of Punjab, which is the food basket of the country and accounts for 80 per cent of the total wheat production in the country. The government has set the wheat output target at 26 million tonnes for the 2016-2017 Rabi season. Last year, wheat production was recorded at 25.4 million tonnes as against the target of 25.8 million tonnes. The prevailing dry weather is also likely to affect crop output. Also, there has already been a decrease in wheat acreage in the province’s arid zone. The meteorological department has already forecast less-than-average rains for December and January. Surface and groundwater resources are also expected to experience further depletion due to low precipitation. The availability of canal water is also becoming a problem.