Pratik Parija, Bloomberg
New Delhi: India’s monsoon, a four-month rainy season that supports a fifth of Asia’s fourth-biggest economy, may be above normal this year, likely boosting farm output and helping the government slow prices that reached a two-year high.
The rains that water rice, sugarcane, soybean, peanut and lentil crops will be more than normal, B.N. Goswami, director of Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology, said yesterday in a phone interview from Pune, a western Indian city.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is counting on an increase in farm output to boost food grain supplies and tame inflation rate that remains higher than the central bank’s forecast. A bigger harvest raises incomes among the 700 million Indians who live along the countryside and spurs demand for consumer appliances.
India’s Meteorological Department, the weather office, will announce its forecast today in what is one of the economy’s most widely watched indicators. The nation’s 234 million farmers rely on the June-to-September rains to water most of their crops. The weather agency considers rainfall to be normal if it’s 2% more or less than the long-term mean.
The state-owned weather bureau factors in the experimental forecasts prepared by institutes including the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology and Centre for Mathematical Modelling & Computer Simulation, and estimates from overseas agencies such as the U.S.-based National Centers for Environmental Prediction and International Institute for Climate and Society.
“Indications of our models show that the monsoon will be slightly above normal this year,” Goswami said.
His comment’s echo predictions made by weather forecasters.
India may receive normal rains this year because there is a possibility of the emergence of La Nina, a weather phenomenon that causes greater rainfall, the Business Standard reported on 13 April, citing the World Meteorological Organization.
There are signs that a transition to La Nina has become a possibility and the threat of El Nino is over. India seldom has a drought in a La Nina year, the paper cited Akhilesh Gupta, an adviser to the science and technology minister, as saying.
The monsoon rains help raise storage levels in the nation’s 76 main reservoirs. Farmers use this water to grow wheat, barely and oilseeds including mustard that are planted between October and December. Wheat, used in local flat breads, makes up a third of the total grain production.
An increase in wheat output may reduce the need to import next year and help the government boost its stockpile of the grain. India resumed importing wheat in February 2006 after six years to meet a shortage and helped push up prices on the Chicago Board of Trade to a 10-year high in October.
Prime Minister Singh’s Congress party lost two state polls in February mainly because of spiraling prices. The party wants to curb inflation to win votes in key election this month in the nation’s most-populous state of Uttar Pradesh. The polls that end on May 8 will set the tone for general elections in 2009.