MP, Rajasthan battle floods; monsoon loses steam
India’s June-September monsoon season is past its halfway mark. The rains seem to have lost momentum once again, and the week ending August 8 was particularly dry.
Even as parts of the country continue to battle floods, there are regions, especially on the western and eastern extremes of the country, that are facing a rainfall deficiency.
Unless there is a revival in rainfall this week, a weak monsoon, especially in the western state of Gujarat, could derail sowing of oilseeds. This is bad news not just for the local farmers, but also the economy as a whole. Edible oil prices are among the biggest reasons for the current phase of high inflation in the country.
1. Another week of less-than-normal rainfall
Cumulative monsoon rainfall once again fell below the Long Period Average (LPA) figure at 8.30am, August 8, the latest period for which data was available from the India Meteorological Department (IMD) at the time of writing.
This is a result of daily monsoon rainfall being less than the LPA rainfall since August 2, 2021. The LPA number; both daily and cumulative, is the average rainfall between 1961 and 2010.
To be sure, with cumulative rainfall up to August 8, just 1.41% below the LPA average, monsoon rainfall is still in the normal zone, technically speaking. The IMD considers monsoon rainfall within 20% of the LPA average as normal. The headline number of cumulative rainfall this year hides beneath periods of excess and deficit rainfall.
In the first 20 days, daily rainfall was more than the LPA on most days. Daily rainfall was less than the LPA on every day from June 21 to July 11 and more than the LPA on most days in the 21 days that followed.
From August 2, rainfall has been again less than the LPA on all days up to 8.30am on August 8, the latest data available at the time.
2. Rainfall surplus decreased in most states
The departure from the LPA decreased in 26 states and UTs from August 1 to August 8. This means that in these 26 states and UTs, the surplus decreased where the rainfall was more than the LPA and the deficit increased where the rainfall was less than the LPA.
Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Kerala, Mizoram, Tripura, and Chandigarh were the only exceptions to this trend.
The gains in even Rajasthan and MP are, however, not uniform. Districts on the common border of these two states have seen floods this month.
The cumulative rainfall in such districts — Sawai Madhopur, Tonk, Bundi, Kota, Baran, Jhalawar and Pratapgarh in Rajasthan and Sheopur, Shivpuri, Mandsaur, Rajgarh, Guna, and Ashoknagar in Madhya Pradesh — is now 60% or more above the LPA. This amount of surplus is classified as “large excess” by the IMD.
The cumulative rainfall in more than half the districts in both these states (33 of 50 in MP and 18 of 33 in Rajasthan) is, however, either within the normal range or deficient (deficit greater than 20%).
Overall in the country, the number of districts (as in the 2011 census) with deficient rainfall increased from 140 on August 1 to 178 on August 8; the number of districts with normal rainfall decreased from 269 to 261; and the number of districts with excess rainfall decreased from 205 to 175.
3. Storage in reservoirs decreased in the last week
The Central Water Commission (CWC) gives the level of storage in 130 main reservoirs of the country compared to the 10-year average for the point in time.
On July 29, the overall storage was 21% above the 10-year average, which decreased by a percentage point by August 5.
At the state level, storage (as departure from the average) decreased in 9 out of 20 states for which this data is available. The decrease was the biggest in Telangana (decrease of 40 percentage points), Maharashtra (26 percentage points), and Gujarat (19 percentage points).
While Telangana and Maharashtra still have a surplus compared to the last 10 years’ average, storage levels in Gujarat are now at a 14% deficit compared to a 5% surplus on July 29.
4. Sowing levels lagging behind last year’s
While the monsoon season lasts till the end of September, this week’s rainfall is going to be crucial for sowing of kharif crops.
As of now, August 6, the latest period for which data is available in the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE) database, 87% of the normal area sown had been covered. This is marginally less than the 89.69% in 2020 but higher than the 82.5% which was sown until August 9 in 2019.
For cereals, only 79% of the normal area sown has been covered so far, compared to the 81.62% last year.
The Monetary Policy Committee of the RBI, which met from August 4-6, had factored in a good kharif season performance to boost the economy.
“As regards agriculture, the south-west monsoon regained intensity in mid-July after a lull; the cumulative rainfall up to August 1, 2021 was one per cent below the long-period average. The pace of sowing of kharif crops picked up in July along with some high frequency indicators of rural demand, notably tractor and fertiliser sales,” the committee resolution had said.
The production of key crops such as oil-seeds will also be crucial on the inflation front, as edible oils have been a key factor in rising prices.