Farmers and officials across the country have been keeping a wary eye on the progress of the monsoon after the met office predicted the rains are expected to be “below normal” for the second year in a row.
The latest forecasts have said that the June-September monsoon – the lifeblood of Asia’s third-largest economy – will arrive on time, hitting Kerala on June 1, though the rainfall may only be 93% of a 50-year average of 89 centimetres.
INSAT satellite image of clouds hovering over India. (Photo: IMD website)
Half of India’s farm output comes from summer crops dependent on the monsoon and millions of farmers are affected by shifts in rainfall. The government has already put in place a contingency plan and is pushing crop insurance in view of problems farmers may face in the event of a weak monsoon.
According to an analysis by the India Meteorological Department (IMD), the onset of the monsoon over Kerala will occur whenever 60% of the body’s 14 stations in the southern state report rainfall of 2.5 mm or more for two consecutive days.
Another analysis by private weather forecaster Skymet put the probability of a "normal monsoon" this season at 49%.
A screen grab of the forecast analysis by Skymet. (Photo: Skymet website)
"The onset of monsoon looks normal. An error window of two to three days can be taken. As of now, there is no delay in arrival of rain. However, monsoon is expected to be below normal due to the El Nino factor," a senior IMD official told PTI.
The IMD is expected to announce on May 15 the likely date of the onset of the monsoon and its progress thereafter.
The government’s contingency plan will cover 580 of the country’s 676 districts that may witness monsoon deficit, while the agriculture ministry is mulling steps to popularise crop insurance schemes among farmers.
The timely onset of the south-west monsoon is crucial for sowing of kharif (summer) crops such as paddy and a deficit in rainfall may hit rice output.
Last year, India received 12% less rains, which hit the production of grains, cotton and oilseeds.
Following the poor monsoon in 2014, unseasonal rains and hailstorms during March-April caused widespread damage to crops in Punjab, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Haryana. This was followed by reports of distressed farmers committing suicide in these states.
The agriculture ministry has prepared itself for below-average rains and is working to minimise the impact of a weak monsoon on kharif production, especially rice and, food inflation.
"The state governments have been asked to fully gear up to implement the contingency plan in 580 districts. In some districts, we are updating contingency measures as per the local needs," agriculture secretary Siraj Husain said.
A big push will be given to popularising crop insurance schemes among farmers, he said.
(With PTI inputs)