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El Niño could spark mega inflation across Asia

Thailand Floods 2011Thailand Floods 2011
Flooded neighborhood of Bang Phlat and Taling Chan on the western side of the Chaopraya river in Western Bangkok.Roland Neveu © 2011 Roland Neveu

You may recall a time in the mid-1990s when American citizens were worried about El Niño, the tropical weather pattern that can cause global changes in temperature and rainfall. Now, according to new Citigroup research cited by Bloomberg, the next group to pin concerns to El Niño may be bankers.

The report, produced by Citi analysts Johanna Chua and Siddharth Mathur, suggests that the current El Niño (the weather anomaly takes places at unpredictable times, sometimes more than five years apart) could have a deleterious effect on economies in countries in and around Asia.

India, Thailand, The Philippines, and others, where agriculture contributes a major percentage of GDP, might see inflation in food prices, since a severe El Niño can brings dry spells and cause crop damage. In Indonesia, for example, the agriculture sector makes up more than 50% of overall employment.

In economies dependent on farming, long-lasting weather that upends crops will naturally impact farming output, and thus commodity pricing.

With these countries especially vulnerable to economic disruption, it may be more bad news that recent reports indicate we are about to see a particularly violent El Niño.