New Delhi: India’s vital monsoon this year is expected to be just below an earlier normal forecast, the weather office said on Tuesday, but the rains could pick up after 15 July, the key planting month for rice, sugarcane and corn.
India’s Meteorological Department (IMD) said in a statement this year’s monsoon rains would be 95% of the long-term average overall, down from its April forecast of 98% and just short of the 96-104% ange which counts as normal monsoon.
India, one of the world’s largest producers and consumers of crops such as rice, sugar and corn, relies heavily on the June to September monsoon for agricultural output.
It had the driest monsoon season in over three decades in 2009, which pushed it onto international markets to buy sugar, triggering price gains to record highs.
A normal monsoon could have encouraged the government to free up stocks in rice, sugar cane and cotton for exports, and helped boost consumer demand in the countryside to push economic growth in Asia’s third-largest economy.
While rains could be slightly lower than normal in July, India’s chief forecaster said distribution was key.
“There are chances the monsoon will pick up after July 15 once it covers the entire country,” said D. Sivananda Pai, director at the state-run National Climate Center.
“Don’t go by the numbers, it is the distribution (of the rains) which we are still hoping to be good.”
The weather office predicted 27 centimetres of rain in July compared with long-term average rainfall of 29 centimetres, and rains at 24 centimetres in August, when seeds start maturing, compared with long-term averages of 26 centimetres.
“There is no need to press the panic button, as June rains are still above normal,” said Shailesh Nayak, the top civil servant in the ministry of earth sciences which controls the country’s weather office.
Poor rainfall can trigger demand from farmers for higher rates for produce and waiver of loan repayment and electricity charges, hitting public finances.