New Delhi: India’s monsoon rains may be normal this season, two government officials said, helping the world’s second biggest producer of rice, wheat and sugar increase farm output after a drought last year damaged crops.
Rainfall in the June-September season will be 98% of the 50-year average, the officials said. They declined to be identified before the India Meteorological Department (IMD) makes its first forecast for the year on 23 April.
Monsoonal showers are critical to India, where agriculture accounts for as much as one-fifth of the economy. India’s expansion slowed in the quarter ended December after the weakest rainfall in almost four decades damaged crops and pushed up sugar prices in New York to a 29-year high.
Watching the rains: A weak monsoon may force RBI to step up efforts to curb inflation, governor D. Subbarao said on Wednesday. Anupam Nath/AP
“Rains will make a strong onset in most regions of the country,” Michael Ferrari, vice-president at the Weather Trends International Inc., said by email. The grain-producing states in the northwest, among the worst affected last year, will get more showers than in the last season, he said.
Prithviraj Chavan, minister of science and technology, declined to comment ahead of the official forecast.
Dry weather caused by El Nino has raised concerns this year that production of rice in the Philippines and Thailand, palm oil in Malaysia and Indonesia, and coffee in Vietnam may be reduced, spurring food inflation.
A weak monsoon may force the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) to step up efforts to curb inflation, governor D. Subbarao told Bloomberg-UTV on Wednesday. RBI increased its three policy rates by a quarter point each on Tuesday after raising rates by a similar step last month.
Still, a breakdown in the El Nino weather condition means the nation probably won’t have a second monsoon failure, Ajit Tyagi, director general of IMD said last month. There’s good chance for El Nino to stay near-neutral in the rainy season, the bureau said in a statement on 15 April.
The bureau considers rainfall to be normal if they are between 96% and 104% of the long-range average.
Thomas Kutty Abraham contributed to this story.