In a parched country scorched by blistering temperatures, it’s raining good news.
The India Meteorological Department (IMD) department on Thursday said in its updated forecast this year’s monsoon will be “normal to excess”, raising hopes in the country hit hard by back-to-back droughts.
It said the rains will be evenly spread, which is vital for good overall food output.
“There are zero per cent chances of the country receiving deficient rainfall while the possibility of normal to excess rainfall is 96 per cent,” said IMD director general Laxman Singh Rathore.
Rathore said southwest monsoon is expected to hit Kerala in the next 4-5 days. That will mark the onset of the June-September rains vital for millions of farmers in the country where nearly 60% of the arable land doesn’t have irrigation facilities.
Northern states, such as Delhi, are likely to get even more rains than the predicted all-India surplus.
In its second forecast, the IMD stuck to its April prediction that the June-September rainy season would be 106% of the long-period average (50 years).
According to the Met’s classification, the monsoon is considered normal if it is 96-104% of the 50-year average of 89 cm. If rains are between 104-110%, it is considered above normal.
Although the initial forecast covers most aspects of the monsoon, the second one captures the spatial and temporal spread. Quite simply, this means the quality of rainfall region and month-wise.
The Met usually makes two monsoon forecasts, the second one being more robust of the two because it is predicted closer to the monsoon-onset date.
The IMD said rainfall would be good in the northwest region, the area that usually gets lower rains compared to other parts even when monsoon is normal because of natural climatic reasons.
Northern states, such as food bowl Punjab, Haryana, UP and Rajasthan and Delhi, will get above-normal rainfall of 108%. In central India and peninsular India, a region that grows important crops, such as paddy, pulses and gram, the rains would be way above normal at 113%.
Heavy rainfall towards the tail-end of the monsoon season in September could be strong enough to cause floods or damage farms.
Two years of drought, triggered by a persistent El Nino weather pattern, have shriveled the rural economy. El Nino is a weather glitch marked by higher-than-normal sea surface temperatures and is known to affect the monsoon.
Last year, the monsoon was deficient by 14%, leading to a crippling drought in 302 of India’s 640 districts. In 2014, the rains were short by 12%.
Monsoon failure apart, unseasonal rains and hail have battered farms too.
Poor farm incomes ultimately impact the country’s overall GDP by damping down rural sales, necessary to keep the economy growing. Nearly half of all motorcycles, television sets and a host of consumer items are sold in rural areas.