Concerns Rise Over El Nino Weather Effects on Food Supply

An official at the National Committee for Disaster Management said Monday that abnormal weather conditions this year could lead to food shortages and that El Nino could be to blame.

Keo Vy, the committee’s cabinet chief, said soaring temperatures and a lack of rain were already affecting farmers and could be a result of El Nino, a periodic phenomenon that disrupts normal weather patterns and which scientists fear is gaining strength in the Pacific.

“If the conditions of the weather prolong, it will damage the rice because our water resources have dropped and it will cause food shortages. This weather may have something to do with El Nino, but I dare not say too much about this because I am not an expert,” said Mr. Vy. “The weather is becoming hotter and there’s only been sporadic rain, and this is causing the situation…where there is a lack of water for crop farming,” he said.

According to the U.S. government’s Climate Prediction Center, Cambodia is expected to experience temperatures between 1.5 and 2 degrees above normal in the months from September to November.

Ian Thomas, a consultant with the Mekong River Commission’s drought management program, said Cambodia should be braced for “major” droughts this year.

“When you look at the computer models, they are not at all good…. The most recent forecasts from the Australians and Americans are now all agreeing that this El Nino is looking as bad as the one in 1999, which was really bad,” Mr. Thomas said on Friday.

“It’s the current ‘lack of healthy green vegetation’ in Cambodia as seen from satellite that is one worrying indicator. Usually by this time Cambodia should be ‘greening up’ as the rains come…. That’s not happening, as the monsoon is weak and delayed this year,” he added via email Monday. “None of it is good news, it’s looking like it’s time to start warning people.”

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