El Niño and cereal production shortfalls: policies for resilience and food security in 2016 and beyond

The current El Niño episode may be among the strongest on record. Past El Niño episodes have caused rainfall and temperature fluctuations leading to agricultural production shortfalls, higher food prices, and disease outbreaks that adversely affected food and nutrition security in various regions worldwide. Rapidly rising food prices are particularly harmful for poor consumers who spend as much as 50 to 70 percent of income on food. This year again, serious localized production shortfalls have occurred or are expected, creating an urgent need for policy actions to ensure adequate food supply and food mobility from surplus to deficit regions. Although global cereal production is not expected to decline significantly, complacency is not warranted: The situation calls for careful monitoring of production and prices, promotion of transparent international and domestic trade policies, and expanded coverage of safety nets and nutrition programs for the households most severely affected, all while working toward long-term improvements in resilience and agricultural production.