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Deadly Pakistan Flooding Brings Destruction to Rice, Cotton Crops

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Pakistan’s widespread flooding has killed more than a thousand people and left millions homeless. The flood’s destruction to Pakistan’s crops adds to the country’s pain, depleting food supplies and reducing revenues from exports.  

Pakistan’s food imports will need to increase to make up for smaller domestic harvests. And countries that normally rely on Pakistan’s exports, including rice and cotton, will need to find alternative sources, putting additional pressure on global commodity supplies. 

The monsoon has brought the most rainfall to Pakistan in at least 20 years. Gro’s Climate Risk Navigator for Agriculture, weighted for the country’s total land area, shows that accumulated precipitation from June 1 to August 30 was 161% greater than the 10-year average. 

Pakistan is a major producer of rice and cotton, and both crops have been damaged. Heavy rains and floods also threaten the upcoming wheat planting season, at a time when global wheat supplies are already tight. 

Gro’s Observed Flood Index, which is available in the Gro Portal, shows the extent and location of Pakistan’s flooding. The Index provides readings of percent land area covered by flood at the municipal, provincial, and national levels.  

Pakistan’s rice crop got off to a slow start because of hot and dry conditions early in the season. Now production is threatened by above average precipitation ahead of harvest, which is due to begin next month. Sind, the No. 2 rice-growing province after Punjab, has been especially hard hit. Aggregated precipitation in Sind’s rice-growing areas is the highest in at least two decades, as shown in this Climate Risk Navigator display

Aggregated rainfall in rice-growing areas of flood-drenched Sind province, one of Pakistan’s main agricultural regions, is sharply higher than anytime in at least two decades, as shown by the red line in this chart from Gro’s Climate Risk Navigator for Agriculture.

China has emerged as a major buyer of Pakistani rice, mainly lower grade, broken rice for use as animal feed. China imported 350,000 tonnes of Pakistani rice in the first four months of 2022, a 163% increase from a year earlier. Flood damage to Pakistan’s crop comes as drought in China threatens as much as half of that country’s rice crop, as Gro wrote about here, and production in India, the No. 1 rice exporter, is expected to decline. Other buyers of Pakistani rice include Malaysia, East African countries, and Saudi Arabia. 

While Pakistan is the world’s fifth-largest cotton producer, the country is a net importer. Flood damage will likely force Pakistan to increase cotton imports at a time when production in the US, the third-largest producer and No. 1 exporter of cotton, is forecast to plunge 28% year over year due to drought, as Gro wrote about here

Flooded fields could prevent or delay planting of Pakistan’s wheat crop, which takes place in October and November. Pakistan is a major wheat producer, primarily for domestic consumption, and a smaller upcoming crop could heighten the country’s need for imports.

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