A below-normal monsoon does not straightaway put India at risk of a drought, meteorological department chief Ajit Tyagi has said. However, patchy rains — not entirely ruled out — could disrupt a farm economy currently firing on all cylinders. “Our prediction model puts the chances of a drought at 19%. Statistically, this means there is less probability of a drought,” Tyagi said.
Even so, the Centre is banking on the rains to be uniformly spread, which is the key for farm output.
A senior official said the Centre was ‘very alive’ to the situation. “Key ministries, such as the railways, agriculture and oil, will have to provide a co-ordinated and timely response in the unlikely event of a drought,” an official said
The Met department, revising its initial forecast on June 21, said the monsoon would be 95% — down from its April forecast of 98%. Falls between 96-104% are considered normal.
“In our annual kharif plan (for summer-sown crops), we have factored in all scenarios — from excess to less rainfall. But depending on rainfall distribution, we may have re-allocate resources,” a farm ministry official said.
The rains are crucial as two-thirds of Indians depend on farm income and 60% of crops do not have assured irrigation.
Poor rains affect rural incomes, increase government spending, as farmers may need to be given additional funds, and curtail welfare schemes. Though agriculture accounts for 14% of the GDP, rural incomes drive demand for manufactured goods, which keeps the economy going. According to a Citibank research, nearly half of all motorcycles are sold in rural India.
Though the government’s granaries are full up, India will need to procure 10 million tonne of additional grains if the food security bill is implemented this year.
The Met issues two monsoon forecasts. Though forecasting techniques have vastly improved, the Met has only managed to forecast the monsoon outcome correctly five times since 1994.