Despite a normal monsoon so far, sowing worries persist

The headline rainfall statistic hides large regional variation in rainfall. Perhaps this is what explains the fact that progress of sowing for India’s winter crop or Kharif season is still short of normal sown area at this point of time
Experts believe that the next couple of weeks are going to be crucial as most of Kharif sowing should get completed by mid-August. (AP File) PREMIUM
Experts believe that the next couple of weeks are going to be crucial as most of Kharif sowing should get completed by mid-August. (AP File)
Updated on Aug 02, 2021 07:25 PM IST
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ByAbhishek Jha

Two out of the four months (June-September) of India’s official monsoon season are now over. Rains have made up for the loss in momentum in the month of June, and monsoon is in the normal category as far as Indian Meteorological Department’s (IMD) criterion is concerned.

The headline rainfall statistic, however, hides large regional variation in rainfall. Perhaps this is what explains the fact that progress of sowing for India’s winter crop or Kharif season is still short of normal sown area at this point of time. Experts believe that the next couple of weeks are going to be crucial as most of Kharif sowing should get completed by mid-August.

A revival in July rainfall after June’s dry patch

The first 62 days of this year’s monsoon season can be divided into three phases — a bumper rainfall in the first 20 days, a dry patch between June 21 to July 11 and a recovery in the period thereafter.

Monsoon performance is measured by comparing current period’s rainfall with what is called the Long Period Average (LPA). The current LPA mark is the average rainfall between 1961 and 2010.

Between June 1 and June 20, daily rainfall was less than the LPA on only two days, leading to a large surplus of 46.83% in cumulative rainfall on June 20, 2021. The abundance in early monsoon rains was followed by a dry patch with daily rainfall being less than the LPA on every day between June 21 and July 11. There has been a revival in rainfall since then.

Between July 12 and 8:30 am on August 1, daily rainfall was lower than the LPA on only six days. As a result of the revival in rains in the latter half of July, the cumulative rainfall deficit of 3.15% vis-à-vis the LPA on July 11 has changed to a 2.19% surplus on August 1, 2021.

It needs to be underlined that IMD’s official criterion considers a rainfall within 20% of the LPA to be normal rainfall.


Excess rain in peninsula, normal/deficient rain elsewhere

This does not mean that all regions in the country have had adequate rains this year.

A state-wise analysis of the rainfall data shows that cumulative rainfall in 14 states and union territories is lower than the LPA figure so far. Among the major states, Gujarat, Kerala and Assam feature on this list.

Seven states have had excess rainfall (20% above the LPA figure) so far. This list includes Maharashtra, Haryana, Delhi, Telangana, and Tamil Nadu. Delhi’s cumulative rainfall surplus is recent phenomenon, as the city-state’s cumulative rainfall was short of LPA from June 16 to July 19 and it is a huge surplus – 47% — now. This surplus has been created steadily since July 27. It was 10.08% on July 27, increased to 10.88% on July 28, 15.46% on July 29, 28.94% on July 30, 30.81% on July 31, and 47.13% at 8:30 am on August 1.


To be sure, there are significant differences in rainfall even within states. This can be seen in a district-wise analysis of IMD’s gridded database. The peninsular region, especially the districts of Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, and Karnataka have received the most excess rainfall. While parts of Maharashtra are battling floods, districts bordering Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat have received normal rainfall. Apart from states that are facing a deficit in their entirety, several districts in Odisha, Uttar Pradesh, and Rajasthan are also facing a deficit.


Of the 614 districts at the time of the 2011 census in India (with Delhi’s districts merged as one), for which this calculation is possible, the number of districts with excess rainfall has increased from 162 on July 15 to 205 on August 1, while those with normal rainfall has increased from 229 to 269. The number of districts with deficient rainfall has decreased from 223 to 140.

Reservoirs drier in states with deficient rainfall

The live storage status of 130 main reservoirs in the country is monitored by the Central Water Commission. These reservoirs had 85.36 billion cubic metres (BCM) of water available as on July 29, higher than both the 70.77 BCM available at this time last year and the average of 70.35 of last 10 years. This is a testimony to the revival in monsoon.

However, the storage in several Northeastern, northern, eastern, and central states is less than the average of the last 10 years. It is in the southern, states, which have received abundant rainfall, where current storage is exceeding the historical average significantly.


Despite monsoon revival, kharif sowing continues to lag

As of July 30, 79.04% of the area normally sown during the kharif season was covered. While this is progress from the 46.6% area covered until July 9, it is still less than the 83.45% area covered by this time last year.

Progress of sowing is slower than last year for all major crops except sugarcane and arhar. In percentage terms, the lag in sowing was the biggest for fibres and oilseeds when compared to last year’s levels.

“These numbers (sowing) are important because we are banking a lot on kharif crop to provide support to GDP as well as income for spending during the festival season as part of the rural demand”, Madan Sabnavis, chief economist at CARE Ratings said in a note issued on July 28.

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Sunday, November 28, 2021