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Surplus monsoon in rain-fed states to drive farm output

May 30, 2024 04:31 PM IST

June-September monsoon is vita because nearly half of the country’s net-sown area lacks irrigation and millions depend on a farm-based livelihood

A majority of India’s rain-fed states, which lack irrigation but account for nearly two-thirds of the country’s farm output, are set to receive above-average monsoon rains for the first time in two years. This will likely boost a range of crops critical to keep a lid on food prices.

Surplus monsoon in rain-fed states to drive farm output
Surplus monsoon in rain-fed states to drive farm output

In its updated forecast, the weather office on Monday reaffirmed its earlier prediction of an above-average monsoon this year, which will potentially lift farm growth and the wider economy.

The June-September monsoon is vital for Asia’s third-largest economy because nearly half of the country’s net-sown area lacks irrigation and millions depend on a farm-based livelihood. The rains also replenish 150 reservoirs critical for industry, drinking and power generation.

Seasonal rainfall is most likely to be above normal over central India and south peninsular India, in excess of 106% of the long period average, the India Meteorological Department (IMD)’s region-wise forecast shows.

Central India and south peninsular India are home to a large number of rain-fed states that produce a variety of crops, such as Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh etc.

According to the IMD’s classification, rainfall between 96% and 104% of a 50-year average of 87 cm (35 inches) for the four-month season beginning June is considered normal. The country as a whole is set to get surplus rainfall of 106%, the IMD has said.

Spotty rains and parched conditions have triggered severe drinking water crises in cities such as Bengaluru, Coimbatore, Chennai and Hyderabad. A prolonged dry spell has triggered Kerala’s worst drought in 40 years, according to the state government.

“Good rains will boost agriculture in these states. Irregular rainfall in these states dented yields of many crops last year, leading to high prices. An ongoing drought has damaged Karnataka’s onion crop for two years in a row,” said Prof R Mani of the Tamil Nadu Agricultural University.

Plentiful rains in these states will likely boost commodities such as pulses, onions, soyabean, rice, corn, coarse cereals, sugar, rubber and cotton. India’s output of pulses dipped to 23.4 million tonne in 2023-24 from 26.1 million tonne a year ago because of below-average rains in 2023, according to official data. In April, inflation in pulses was at a high of 16.8%.

Adequate rainfall will also lift farm growth. Last week, Ramesh Chand, the head of agriculture at state-run think tank Niti Aayog, had told HT that agriculture growth could touch 6%, partly because of low growth last year.

The farm sector grew 0.7% in FY24, according to the second advance estimates. This is the slowest expansion in eight years and lower than the 1.8% growth projected in the first advance estimate.

Plentiful harvests are critical this year also because of a drop in food reserves. For instance, wheat stocks in state warehouses dropped to 7.5 million tonne in April, the lowest in 16 years, after disappointing production in 2022 and 2023.

Rainfall over what is known as the monsoon core zone, consisting of most of the rain-fed regions, is most likely to be above normal, the IMD had said on Monday. However, prospects of below-normal rainfall over Northeast, according to the IMD’s forecast, could dent rice yields in eastern India.

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