New Delhi: India’s monsoon rains were 8% below normal in early July, reviving after the driest June in 83 years, but water in the main reservoirs has more than halved, putting at risk even winter-sown oilseeds and wheat.
Rainfall was 29% below normal in the last week of June but improved in the following week, helping corn, soybean, sugarcane and rice crops in India, where 60% of farms depend on the monsoons.
Soybean sowing would be completed in a week in the main producing central state of Madhya Pradesh, but last month’s dry patch hit rice and oilseeds planting in some parts of south India, trade officials said.
“Follow-up rains, after the sowing gets over next week, will be crucial,” said Rajesh Agrawal, spokesman of the Soybean Processors Assocation of India.
The monsoon’s revival in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, India’s top sugarcane producer, is expected to raise sugar content in the crop, but it needs regular rainfall in future.
Water levels in India’s 81 main reservoirs more than halved to 16.003 billion cubic metres (bcm) from 37.301 bcm a year ago, according to government data for the week ending 8 July.
The water level was 51.5% lower than the average in the past decade and a senior government scientist said that if rains in the months ahead are not enough to fill up reservoirs, irrigated winter crops such as wheat and rapeseed will be hit.
“If the reservoir level does not improve by end-August, then winter-sown crops would be affected, but it is too early to say anything,” said A K Singh, deputy director general at the Indian Council of Agricultural Research.
Lower water level in reservoirs would also hit hydro power which accounts for a quarter of India’s total power generation of 149,400 megawatts.
Weather officials say India faces a risk from El Nino, a weather condition marked by warming of the eastern equatorial Pacific Ocean waters that can impede the progressing monsoon.
The US Climate Prediction Center said on Thursday that El Nino had developed and it was of weak-to-moderate strength.
On 3 July, the monsoon covered the whole country, 12 days ahead of the usual date, but it was 48 percent below normal last month despite arriving a week ahead of schedule, making it the driest June since 1926.
Weather officials have taken some comfort in the fact that in 1926 and in some subsequent years, when June rainfall was weak, the monsoon was strong in the following two months.
Last month, the weather office forecast total rainfall from the four-month monsoon would be 93% of the long-term average, coming in below normal for the first time in four years.
The weather office forecast July rainfall at 93% of its long-term average and August rains at 101%.