Will La Niña modelling dampen the hopes of better patchouli supplies?

La Niña, the cool phase of the El Niño-Southern Oscillation climate pattern emerged in the tropical Pacific in August 2020. Forecasters estimate a 75% chance these conditions will last through Northern Hemisphere winter.

“The El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) monitoring system remains in the “La Niña Watch” status this month. The Nino3.4 sea surface temperature index is below average and atmospheric indicators (cloudiness and wind anomalies) over the tropical Pacific Ocean continue to show a tendency towards La Niña-like patterns. Models are predicting La Niña conditions from September 2020.”

Asean Specialised Metrological Centre

The typical impact of El Niño on Indonesia is drier-than-average rainfall conditions, including during the season September to November. Warmer temperature conditions typically follow drier periods. The opposite conditions for rainfall (and consequently temperature) are observed during La Niña years which is where we are today.

We’ve already seen higher than normal rainfalls this year and have continued to wait for dryer conditions to provide some welcome relief to low raw material supplies but that time may not be coming as we would have hoped.

The modelling which has been developed in recent weeks following the sea temperature changes shows that we can expect heavier rains over the coming months which will impact raw material collections and once again delay plantings for 2021.

In fact, in 2019 the rainy season started around the time we all met in Bali for the annual IFEAT Conference and since then it has never really stopped. During normal years we would have expected fresh raw materials around June/July, at the start of the dry season, which would have led to better supplies and often better prices. Now, in late September that dry period never really occurred so to expect that to happen at this late stage with the rainy season looming in La Niña conditions may prove to be a little over optimistic.

At the moment prices are finely balanced against low raw material supplies but increasing market demand in starting to push prices up rather than fall as we would prefer. In the weeks ahead we may get small opportunities were raw material supplies pick up and oil sales slow but generally this isn’t expected. The fear for many processors now is that the market has waited too long to place forward orders and with very little patchouli oil in the global marketplace the pressure on supplies may only increase into the winter months when supplies will be at their lowest.