After slumping to a nine-year low GDP growth rate of 5.3% in the last quarter of 2011-12, there could be more grim news for the economy. Meteorological department chief LS Rathore has hinted it may not be a normal monsoon this year.
Rathore told HT the forecast of a normal monsoon may have to be revised, amid rising ocean temperatures, even though the summer rains are expected make a near-timely arrival over Kerala by June 5.
“I do expect a revision of the April forecast. Ocean temperatures are rising. We’ll have to see how this impacts the monsoon,” Rathore said. The forecast may be changed June-end.
Normal rains, which act as a strong check on inflation through good farm output, are critical if Asia’s third-largest economy is to recover from a sharp slowdown.
“A patchy monsoon would impact (economic) recovery to an extent, but (its effect on) prices are a real cause of concern, although stocks are plentiful at this stage,” said NR Bhanumurthy, economist at the state-run National Institute of Public Finance and Policy.
Monsoon rains are vital not only for agriculture output but the whole economy as more than two-thirds of Indians depend on farm income. Rural spending goes up when adequate monsoon raises farm output. This aids economic growth.
Rathore said ocean temperatures were seen rising between 0.5 and 0.7 degree Celsius, a precursor to El Nino. Marked by an abnormal warming of the eastern Pacific Ocean, El Nino, or little boy in Spanish, is known to trigger droughts such as the one in 2009.