New Delhi: India’s drought has abated with a late revival in monsoon rains narrowing the shortfall from averages to just 8% in the season so far, Agriculture minister Sharad Pawar said on Wednesday.
The June-September monsoon rains, which are crucial for the 55% of India’s farmland that is rain-fed, were about 12% below average until the end of August. Rains below 90% of long-term averages are considered deficient—a drought in layman’s terms.
The weather office still retains its forecast of at least 10% below average rainfall for the whole season despite the late revival, which even led to the heaviest rainfall of the season during the first week of September.
“We are not revising our forecast for the entire season, but definitely expecting the overall seasonal gap not go beyond 15%,” said S.C. Bhan, a director of the India Meteorological Department.
The minister also said the weak rains in drought-hit areas would still result in lower output for summer-planted coarse cereals and pulses.
Pawar said the low rainfall during the first half of the monsoon season has caused droughts in pulse and cereal growing states such as Gujarat, Maharahstra and Karnataka.
He also said acreage planted to the main summer crop rice was good but its productivity could be hit as rains arrived late in the major producing regions.
But he did not expect any major supply shortfall for the grain as government warehouses have ample stocks, built up by bumper harvests during the previous two seasons.
“We will be able to produce enough to meet the country’s requirement,” the minister said.
The weather official also said the El Nino phenomenon is unlikely to have any influence until the end of the season. El Nino can reduce the amount of rainfall during India’s monsoon as it did in 2009, the last year India had a drought, when rainfall was 22% below average. REUTERS