India’s crucial monsoon rains are expected to be above average in 2016, a senior official at the weather office said on Tuesday, easing fears over farm and economic growth after two straight droughts hit rural incomes and agricultural output.
Rains in 2016 would be 106% of the long-term average, said the official at India Meteorological Department.
The monsoon rains could be above average as the El Nino weather pattern is gradually fading and giving way to La Nina, the official said.
“This year monsoon will be above normal,” IMD director general Laxman Singh Rathore said.
El Nino, or warming of sea-surface temperatures in the Pacific, can lead to scorching weather conditions across Asia and east Africa, but heavy rains and floods in South America.
The July to September monsoon delivers nearly 70% of annual rains and waters half of India’s farmlands that lack irrigation facilities.
Above average monsoon rains play a key role in boosting demand for an array of consumer goods, as 70% of India’s 1.3 billion people live in villages.
Agriculture accounts for about 14% of India’s $2 trillion economy, Asia’s third-biggest, but it supports two-thirds of Indian’s population.
Skymet, the country’s only private forecaster, has also said monsoon rains are expected to be 105% above the long-term average, with a 35% probability of above average rainfall.
“If indeed we end up having a better-than-normal monsoon, and spatial distribution of monsoon and production indicators point to a normal year, then the RBI’s comfort for another rate cut will increase,” said Gaurav Kapur, senior economist at Royal Bank of Scotland in Mumbai.
A normal or average monsoon means rainfall between 96% and 104% of a 50-year average of 89 cm during the four-month season from June, the weather office says.
Two straight years of drought in India - for only the fourth time in over a century - have sparked anger among farmers against Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
They blame his government for being slow in reaching out to them after drought ravaged their crops in 2014 and 2015, making a mockery of his election promise that they would make a 50 percent profit on their cost of cultivation.
The farm vote will be critical in determining the fortunes of Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) when the big rural states of Uttar Pradesh and Punjab go to the polls in the first half of next year.