New Delhi: India’s summer monsoon is likely to be normal this year, the government said on Friday, allaying fears over an event crucial to the economic fate of the world’s second- most populous nation.
Rainfall is likely to be 98% of the long-term average, said the weather office, whose forecast is closely watched by commodities and financial markets as well as the government, which is battling to rein in inflation against a backdrop of intense protests over rising food prices.
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“Rainfall for the country as a whole is likely to be normal,” B P Yadav, spokesman for the India Meteorological Office, told reporters, adding that the forecast model had an error margin of 5%.
He said the El Nino phenomenom, which disrupts normal weather patterns, was weakening.
The monsoon winds bring 75 to 90% of the rainfall in most parts of India, the world’s top edible oils importer and biggest sugar consumer, and are vital for cane, rice and oilseeds crops as 60% of cultivated areas depend entirely on the rains for irrigation.
Last year, the government’s forecast of a normal monsoon proved wrong and the country grappled instead with a baking drought caused by its driest monsoon in 37 years.
India’s coalition government, led by the Congress party of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, cannot afford another poor season that would further fuel food inflation, spur additional interest rate hikes and trim economic growth.
Good rainfall would help India’s farm output rebound after last year’s drought, which triggered a sustained rise in inflation that boosted food prices 17.7% in the 12 months to 10 April, and fuel prices by 12.5%.