India’s back-to-back drought is likely to end in winter with the weather department predicting higher-than-normal rainfall between October and December in the southern part of the country and normal rains in the rest, boosting prospects of the winter harvest.
The rabi, or winter-sown, season is vital since it accounts for nearly half the country’s total food output. The forecast eases worries about water shortages in the nation’s 89 nationally important reservoirs critical for drinking, power and irrigation, following the 13th worst monsoon ever recorded.
The special forecast made jointly with the weather bureaus of eight South Asian countries comes as a relief after a near dry summer sent food prices spiralling and stoked rural distress. Poor winter rains could deepen the crisis.
“Given the unfavourable reservoir storage levels in the eastern, western, central and southern regions, the rabi crop as well as food prices will remain vulnerable to the magnitude of rainfall in the coming months,” said Aditi Nayar, senior economist with ratings firm ICRA.
The October-December winter monsoon is a major rain-bearing system for southern states which grow a range of crops. In Tamil Nadu, for instance, this is the main rainy season, accounting for 48% of its total rainfall.
“Normal to above normal rainfall is likely during the 2015 northeast monsoon season (October–December) over southern parts of South Asia including southeast peninsular India, Sri Lanka and Maldives. During the season, normal to above normal temperatures are likely, over most parts of the region,” the consensus forecast says.
Farm output is expected to dip nearly 5% in the 2014-15 crop year because of a stormy spring followed by a parched summer, according the government’s quarterly projections. Households are reeling under high pulses and onion prices, which rose by 38.6% and 113.7% in September.