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Heavy monsoon rains after El Nino a risk for Indian crops: expert

Heavy monsoon rains after El Nino a risk for Indian crops: expert
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First Published: Fri, May 21 2010. 04 16 PM IST
Updated: Fri, May 21 2010. 04 16 PM IST
Kolkata: An end to the El Nino weather pattern this year may spark severe rains during India’s summer monsoon and swamp cane, corn and rice crops, scientists said on Friday, as the country tries to boost food output to tame prices.
Monsoon rains are forecast to revive this year, helped by the reverse La Nina weather pattern that is expected to cause bursts of heavy rains in many parts of the subcontinent.
Last year, monsoon rains fell short of forecast and caused the worst growing conditions in nearly four decades which helped cause a spike in food prices still being felt.
“La Nina ensures at least there will be no drought, but maybe there will be more floods this year,” L.S. Rathore, head of the agricultural meteorology division of India’s weather office, told Reuters on the sidelines of a weather conference in Kolkata.
India is counting on a strong rebound in farm output to help calm soaring inflation and accelerate growth. But other forecasters also warned of the risk of flood damage from downpours linked to La Nina.
“Flooding is likely to be a little more frequent and significant relative to last year,” Kansas-based forecasting firm World Weather Inc. said in a recent forecast.
Government data shows average annual crop damages from floods in India amounts to $575 million.
Even last year when many parts of India were parched during the rainy season, floods in Bihar and Karnataka states damaged sugar cane and corn crops.
Floods in the beginning of the season can force farmers to replant crops. In 2008, floods hit India’s sugar output.
“Excess rain causing water logging is bad for cane,” said Ranjit Puri, former head of the Indian Sugar Mills Association.
The situation may be worse this year.
“The monsoon flow is often enhanced during periods in which El Nino is waning and especially during the early phases of La Nina,” World Weather said in an emailed note.
Earlier this month Australia’s weather bureau said the 2009-10 El Nino that worsened drought in Australia, caused the failure of last year’s monsoon in India and threatened Southeast Asia’s palm oil and rubber crops is over.
Indian scientists said they were studying the situation.
“A formal announcement on La Nina would be made in June after assessing global conditions,” D. Sivananda Pai, director of government-run National Climate Center at Pune, told Reuters.
La Nina is expected to develop in the second half of the June-September monsoon season.
Scientests say even distribution of rainfall from the monsoon is important for crops to grow steadily.
“Well-spread, normal rains are needed,” Ajit Tyagi, director general of the India Meteorological department said.
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First Published: Fri, May 21 2010. 04 16 PM IST