The monsoon, in its withdrawal phase now, has revived over key drought-hit states that account for over a third of India’s food output, offering respite to millions of farmers battling tough conditions and a government staring at a rural crisis.
The late surge, not unusual, has narrowed current rainfall deficiency from 16% to 15% for the June-September season. Overnight, Maharashtra’s Vidarbha region and the states of Chhattisgarh, Telangana have received robust showers, while moderately wet weather has covered Odisha, central Maharashtra, Goa and Kerala.
The recovery has been led by fresh depressions, or windy, torrential systems, that are drifting in from both the Arabian Sea off Goa and the Bay of Bengal through the Odisha coast. The systems are headed on a converging path and after fusing over central India, they are expected to sweep up north.
This has turned the forecast favourable: heavy rains lasting at least until Monday are predicted across states. As the system paces up north, Delhi, Uttarakhand, Haryana and Punjab will get rains around Monday.
Rainfall is due over the weekend in some of the driest regions, such as Marathwada and Vidarbha in Maharashtra and north Karnataka, apart from coastal Telangana and Andhra Pradesh.
The wet spell will help a range of crops such as pulses, rice and coarse cereals because a round of irrigation is critical at this point due to a long monsoon pause. Much of September so far has been warmer and drier than usual because of missing rainfall activity, further stressing crops in these states.
India’s output of rice – the main summer crop – is likely to be marginally lower than last year's at 90.6 million tonnes in 2015-16 due to a drought, the government’s first of the four quarterly projections on Wednesday showed.
Overall, food grain production is likely to drop 1.8% from a year ago to 124.05 million tonnes due to a sharply lower output of crops, such as corn. The estimates are likely to be revised again.
Overall, as the monsoon season draws to a close, nearly half of the country has received below-normal rains, leaving many states grappling with pockets of battered farms. A preliminary analysis shows crops such as onions, tur (a type of widely consumed pulses) and coarse cereals, apart from cotton, will take a hit, an official told HT, requesting anonymity.
More worrying has been the deepening rural crisis. Tractor sales were down 23% in August. Rural wages -- a key measure of farm-based earnings -- rose at a slower 4.6% pace in the 12-month period ended June, compared to a 12% rise in the corresponding period a year ago, according to a research report by Barclays.
Water levels in 89 important reservoirs are at half their capacity, lower than the 10-year average.