Extreme Weather Menaces China’s Rice-Growing Regions

Heavy summer monsoon rains and floods are threatening thousands of lives and hectares of cropland in China’s Guangxi and Guangdong regions, both major centers for Chinese rice production. Meanwhile, drought is threatening Jiangsu province, China’s fourth largest rice producing region, ahead of its first crop harvest next month.

For Jiangsu, Gro’s Drought Index, weighted to rice-growing area, is showing the worst drought in the last 20 years.  

Guangxi’s and Guangdong’s first rice crops are harvested in June and July, and for rice crops, flooding at this point in the season can cause a reduction in quality and quantity because rice grains are at the end of their reproductive and maturation phase and their panicles are being filled. In both regions, a second rice crop is planted in July and harvested in October and November.  

With more heavy rain predicted for Guangxi and Guangdong in the coming weeks, additional flooding seems inevitable, requiring real-time monitoring using the Gro Climate Indicator (GCI) - Observed Flood and the Gro’s Climate Risk Navigator for Agriculture, which gives a quick and up-to-date overview of weather and climate projections for over 40 major crops grown anywhere in the world. The GCI - Observed Flood is a global index that identifies potential flooding and flood extent and updates daily.

Typically, China's rainy season occurs from May to September, and this year’s season is already off to an extreme start. The accumulated rainfall in Guangxi, Guangdong, and Fujian is the second highest in at least 20 years, and some regions, such as Guangdong and Guangxi, have experienced double the average daily precipitation for the May to June period, compared with the 20-year May-June daily average of 8-11 mm, according to the Gro Climate Anomalies Model.

Even though China produced a record 149 million tonnes of rice last year, it also imported record amounts of rice, due to a surge in overall feed demand. For the current 2021/2022 marketing year through May, China has imported 4.9 million tonnes of rice, a 22% increase year over year. At this rate, it will surpass the USDA’s estimate of 5.2 million tonnes imported before the 2021/2022 marketing year ends in September. China is forecasted to import 6 million tonnes of rice during the upcoming 2022/2023 marketing year.

China is the largest importer of Indian broken rice, which it uses for animal feed. And concerns that India, which imposed wheat and sugar export caps last month, will institute rice export bans to quell rising domestic food prices persist, despite government assurances that no such plans are in the cards.

Domestic rice prices in India, second-largest producer of rice globally and the world’s top rice exporter, remain elevated.