New Delhi: India’s official weather forecaster declared the onset of the rainy season on Wednesday, saying the June-September Southwest monsoon has hit Kerala, cheering farmers and the economy after two years of deficit rains.
Wednesday’s landfall marks the beginning of the 2016 monsoon season which, according to the India Meteorological Department (IMD), will bring above-normal rainfall this year at 106% of the long period average (LPA).
After two years of failed monsoon rains, a good monsoon is set to cheer not only farmers and policymakers over the prospects of a revival of rural consumption, but also the wider economy.
IMD declared the onset of monsoon after the 14 stations for which rainfall is being monitored for the purpose reported widespread rainfall over the last 48 hours—more than 60% of the stations reported rainfall on Tuesday and Wednesday.
With this and two other criteria related to wind field and outgoing longwave radiation fulfilled, IMD said that the Southwest monsoon has set in over Kerala.
The government forecaster had predicted a slightly delayed onset this year by 7 June +/- four days. The onset of monsoon, however, does not have an impact on the quality of monsoon.
The monsoon season is crucial to India’s rain-fed agricultural economy, with its onset launching the sowing season for summer crops. India receives 80% of its annual rainfall in this period and more than half the country’s farmland is rain-fed.
The rains come after eleven states declared a drought after last year’s failed rains which have also led to depleting water levels in reservoirs.
One of the major factors responsible for last year’s poor monsoon was the El Nino weather phenomenon. But this year, weather scientists have forecast that La Nina, the anti-El Nino phenomenon, can be expected to develop later this year. While El Nino is associated with drier monsoons in India, La Nina is linked to heavier rainfall.
“A normal monsoon this year will help put a tap on food inflation and in turn offset rising pressures from crude oil prices and sticky services inflation. We believe inflation would therefore average 5% in fiscal 2017,” said Crisil Research in a note on Wednesday.
The monsoon is considered normal when the rainfall is 96-104% of the LPA and above normal when it is 105-110% of LPA.
The back-to-back deficit monsoon years have taken a toll on agricultural production, Crisil said.
The third advance estimates for 2015 showed that output is down 2% in rice, 12% in coarse cereals, 0.5% in pulses, 4% in sugarcane and 6% in oilseeds, exacerbating rural distress.
“A good monsoon will especially benefit the production of oilseeds and pulses, which are mostly rain-fed. So we can expect prices to come under control and farmer income to increase and hopefully this gives a chance for the economy to bounce back on the normal curve,” said Ashok Gulati, agriculture chair professor at the Indian Council for Research in International Economic Relations, Delhi.
IMD scientists expect that the monsoon will advance speedily over the rest of the country.
“Although there may be a slight delay in the advance till central India, but then, farther progress will be normal after that as monsoon gains strength again,” said D.S. Pai, head of the long-range forecasting division at IMD Pune. In the next 48 hours, the Southwest monsoon will further advance into some parts of central Arabian Sea, coastal and south interior Karnataka, remaining parts of Kerala and Tamil Nadu, some parts of south Andhra Pradesh and some more regions of central Bay of Bengal.