Cars to Computers: Thailand Floods demonstrate Climate Change Global Impact
October 31, 2011
Toyota says it’s shutting down its North American production tomorrow for one day and halting overtime at several U.S. plants. It’s because the automaker can’t get parts from Thailand. Thailand is a global car manufacturing hub, and deadly floods there are damaging carmakers’ facilities. Toyota’s plants in Thailand will be shut through the end of next week. Ford and GM have also suspended production. Honda delayed the release of a new model because it couldn’t get the necessary parts. Thailand is also one of the world’s largest producers of hard-disk drives and other computer parts. Sony, Canon and Toshiba are all experiencing production slowdowns. Apple says the flooding has also affected the supply of parts for its Mac computers.
Toyota says it will suspend production at its assembly plants in Indiana, Kentucky and Ontario, Canada, along with an engine factory in West Virginia to cope with a shortage of parts, caused by flooding in Thailand. The parts shortage is beginning to affect global operations.
The plants will remain closed on Saturday while Toyota “will continue to monitor the supply situation in Thailand.” the company’s North American unit said in a statement. Before, Toyota had said it would adjust production at its vehicle production plants in Japan from October 24 through October 28, after which “a decision on production hours from October 29 onward will be made based on an assessment of the situation as it develops.”
It is said that about 100 kinds of parts are affected, including electronic items.
TAIPEI, Oct 28 (Reuters) – Taiwan’s Acer Inc expects fourth quarter sales to fall as much as 10 percent from the previous three months and will raise prices as flooding in Thailand disrupts supplies of hard disk drives for PCs.
The company told an investor conference on Friday that it hopes to see some improvement in the supply of hard disks in the first quarter of next year, but added that with prices for disks rising up to 20 percent, it needs to take action.
The most damaging natural disaster in Thailand history is growing more serious, as the flood waters besieging the capital of Bangkok continue to overwhelm defenses and inundate the city. Heavy rains during September and October have led to extreme flooding that has killed 373 people and caused that nation’s most expensive natural disaster in history, with a cost now estimated at $6 billion. Thailand’s previous most expensive disaster was the $1.3 billion price tag of the November 27, 1993 flood, according to the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED).
Floodwaters have swamped fields and cities in a third of Thailand’s provinces, affected 9 million people, and damaged approximately 10% of the nation’s rice crop. Thailand is the world’s largest exporter of rice, so the disaster may put further upward pressure on world food prices, which are already at the highest levels since the late 1970s.
Ocean temperatures in the waters surrounding Thailand during September and October have been approximately 0.3°C above average, which has increased rainfall amounts by putting more water vapor into the air. The remains of Tropical Storm Haitang and Typhoon Nesat also brought heavy rains in late September which contributed to the flooding.
Thailand’s worst floods in more than a half century may have wiped out as much as 14 percent of paddy fields in the world’s biggest rice exporter, potentially erasing the predicted global glut.
The Thai export price, a global benchmark, may climb 21 percent to $750 a metric ton by December, according to Sumeth Laomoraphorn, president of C.P. Intertrade Co., the country’s largest seller of packaged rice. Tropical storms inundated 62 of 77 provinces, destroying 1.4 million hectares (3.5 million acres) and as much as 7 million tons of crops, the government says. That equals 4.6 million tons of milled grain, 1 million more than the surplus expected by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Rice, a staple for half the world, was already this year’s best-performing agricultural commodity after drought cut the U.S. harvest to the lowest level in 13 years. Prices also rose as Thailand started buying at above-market costs to boost farmer incomes. That is adding renewed pressure to global food prices monitored by the United Nations, which had dropped 5 percent from a record in February as other grains declined.
“I’ve never seen such a catastrophe, watching the field turning into a sea of floodwater,” said Wichian Phuanglamchiak, a 74-year-old farmer in the central province of Ayutthaya, speaking from the second floor of his house. “My entire crop was wiped out and I have to wait for the water to recede before I can replant in December.”