Last year, El Nino-induced droughts, the worst in 30 years, hit Vietnam’s coffee crop, while water levels in the Mekong Delta food basket dropped to their lowest in 90 years, triggering salination that destroyed fruit, rice and sugarcane crops and hit the country’s shrimp production.
Vietnam may experience a weak El Nino this summer but it could still bring powerful typhoons and induce droughts and saltwater intrusion during the next dry season, a senior state meteorologist said.
Vietnam is ranked by the World Bank as one of the five countries likely to be most affected by climate change. It is the world’s biggest robusta producer and ranks third in terms of rice exports after India and Thailand.
“The latest data indicate a return of El Nino,” Le Thanh Hai, deputy head of the National Hydro-Meteorological Center, was quoted by Tien Phong (Vanguard) newspaper as saying on Thursday on the sidelines of an event to mark World Meteorological Day.
Hai’s projection echoes forecasts made by other meteorological agencies earlier this year.
The U.N.’s World Meteorological Organization said in February that El Nino could return later this year, while the U.S. National Weather Service’s Climate Prediction Center said in early March that El Nino could arrive as soon as this spring.
El Nino, which means “little boy” in Spanish, features a warming of ocean surface temperatures in the Pacific that typically occurs every few years. The weather condition often brings droughts to Asia and Africa while causing flash floods in America.
Hai said powerful typhoons can be expected, and if the weather phenomenon prolongs, many areas in Vietnam could face severe drought and salination in the dry season, which normally lasts from October through April in the southern region.
In the next few months, rainfall could be lower than in previous years while the rainy season is forecast to return later than usual, Hai said, adding that summer temperatures are likely to be higher.
A late return of the rainy season could affect coffee production in the Central Highlands and raise production costs as a longer watering period would be required. Growers often begin watering their coffee trees in February and complete the process in late April before the rains return.
Last year, El Nino severely damaged Vietnam’s agriculture, forestry and seafood industries, limiting the sector’s annual growth to 1.36 percent, the slowest rate since 2011, based on government statistics.
The Southeast Asian nation’s economic growth also slowed to 6.21 percent last year, the slowest since 2014.