Skip to main content

New Product Launch: ClimateLens Monitor Yield Outlook - see regional and location-specific yields on key commodity crops, updated weekly.Learn More

Grain Sourcing and Climate: What’s Ahead for Oats?

Scott Patterson • May 15th, 2024.

La Nina Summer Weather Pattern

Millions of people’s lives in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) depend on agriculture. In a region that is extremely hot and dry, trying to grow enough food for livestock and people requires a large amount of water for irrigation. When the weather is perfect, water scarcity is still an issue and it is only getting worse. Climate change is increasing temperatures, intensifying and extending droughts, and speeding up the rate of water evaporation.

The Global Food Value Chain

One solution has been for the MENA region to source food from other locations worldwide to make up the shortfall. In an article from October of 2023, nearly 57% of grains needed for people and animals were imported from other countries. The remaining 43% of grains were grown locally. The global food supply chain plays an important role in the economy worldwide. In places like MENA, global sourcing for food directly ties into the ability to maintain food security.

Climate change is greatly impacting the food value chain for global trade. Producers can no longer count on projections based on historical data. Extreme conditions that lead to lower yields and completely failed harvests are becoming the norm.

Extreme Weather and the Supply Chain

Flooding at Dubai Airport

Trucks and planes are stuck in extreme flooding at the airport in Dubai.

Weather volatility is also impacting the supply chain, as recent flooding in Dubai and nearby Abu Dhabi produced more rain in one day than they receive in an average year. In a few spots, these locations received almost 2 years’ worth of rain (260mm) as part of this 24 hour extreme weather event. Most of the rain fell over the course of the first nine hours. The sudden influx of rain led to flooding of all transportation infrastructure. This included roads and the international airport and likely led to disruptions in the supply chain.

While this much rain may seem like a good thing for crops in an otherwise arid environment, too much rain reduces nutrients in the soil. Because the soil is not accustomed to taking in this much rain, the water has very few places to go. This can lead to fungus forming in the soil and on the base of the crops, resulting in lower yields.

Climate Volatility’s Impact on Grain Sourcing

In 2023, India banned exports of non-basmati rice as their own rice supply decreased after poor kharif and rabi growing seasons. This had a huge impact on the food supply chain globally, as India is the largest exporter of rice by 2:1. Countries that imported Indian rice had to find alternate sources or risk not having enough rice for their populations.

The MENA region faces a similar problem because they have to import a large amount of grains and other food for people and livestock. Any major disruption in the sourcing regions globally, whether it is climate change or geo-politically related, can lead to devastating consequences for the people and animals living there.

Climate Change and Crop Growth Cycles

Climate change is causing normal seasonal weather patterns to shift in timing and position. This is leading to plants experiencing intense heat, high evapotranspiration, and reduced soil moisture. Often this is occurring during the most critical periods of a plant’s growth cycle. When this happens, it lowers yields due to less developed and lower quality plants.

Extreme weather during the growth cycle can affect even the hardiest crops.

Oats and a Warming Planet

Oats

Oats are a hardy plant and can grow in colder climates, farther north than many other types of crops. For this reason, Russia is the leading oat producer, followed by Canada.

One of the main problems these areas face is steadily increasing temperatures as the planet continues to warm. The warmer temperatures will largely occur through daytime, with maximum temperatures that are well above normal.

These hot days will increasingly occur earlier in the year during the spring and will coincide more frequently with the pollination and flowering phases of oats. This leads to lower production and less food to export to countries in the MENA region and other global locations.

Monitor Yield Outlook for Oats

In a world with seemingly endless cycles of extreme weather events, how do you know when your food supply may fall short?

This is where ClimateAi’s Monitor Yield Outlook comes in handy. Our climate-driven yield models help take the guesswork out of supply risk, translating observed & forecasted weather-related hazards into impact on yield.

Take for example 2021, when hot and dry conditions impacted Canada, putting the prairie provinces in widespread drought and setting a Canadian record high temperature of 49.6°C (121.3°F). These climate-driven conditions led to significantly lower oat production, driving the oats spot price to spike from $3.56 in May 2021 to $7.65 in November 2021 (a 114% increase).

Oat Spot Pricing

Our yield models can help you stay ahead of the game in securing your supply and mitigating these types of shocks. ClimateAi’s 2021 yield model for Canadian oats accurately caught the extreme heat and drought – predicting a drastic drop in expected yields months in advance of the market’s eventual price surge.

Observed and ClimateAi Models

Looking at the 2024 growing season underway, our models are forecasting a negative impact on oat yields for key oat production regions of Canada and the northern United States, due to above normal temperatures from spring until early fall. ClimateAi’s insights into yield risk for the season ahead can help stakeholders ensure sufficient supply and avoid potential price premiums.

The 2024 to 2025 climate outlook

La Niña will return between August and October of 2024 and persist at least through April of 2025. Unlike El Niño, La Niña is an area of colder than normal water temperatures in the Pacific Ocean along the equator from Ecuador to almost Indonesia. Because of this, La Niña will cause opposite effects for locations near the equator as they switch precipitation patterns from wet to dry or dry to wet. This will be a welcome relief in locations like South America and Africa.

Further from the equator the differences between El Niño and La Niña are a little more fuzzy. For the regions where oats grow, especially in Canada, La Niña is likely to bring colder than normal temperatures this winter. Then it will bring a drier spring/summer in 2025, with a higher chance for intense heat waves.

La Nina Summer Weather Pattern

Summer in the northern US and southern Canada will feature a
risk for short-live heat waves that create stress on oat crops.

La Nina Winter Weather Pattern

A colder winter is on tap this year for oat-growing regions in
Canada and the US, but that doesn’t mean more rain or snow than normal.

Conclusion

With climate volatility already making headlines in 2024, food security is becoming a bigger challenge. Extreme climate changes continue to reduce harvest yields, wreaking havoc on supply chains for importing and exporting countries.

Planning ahead using crop yield models makes it easier to understand how the changing climate will affect the food value chain. Reach out to ClimateAi for more about our crop yield models and to get seasonal and long range forecasts.

Ready to find out what risk-intelligence can do for your bottom line?

Talk to Us