New Delhi: India’s monsoon, which accounts for more than 70% of annual precipitation, missed a forecast for normal rainfall for a second year.

Showers totaled 804 millimeters — or about 91% of the 50-year average — in the June to September period, data from the India Meteorological Department showed. The bureau had maintained a forecast of 97% in August despite dry conditions in the first half of the season. A monsoon is normal when rainfall is between 96 and 104% of the long-term average.

The annual four-month rainy season is critical to the country’s agriculture sector as it affects summer and winter crop sowing and waters more than half of all farmland. Rainfall was slightly below normal last year. This year’s monsoon brought normal or excess showers to 69% of the country, with the rest receiving insufficient rainfall.

“Even if total rainfall is lower than normal, the distribution has been more or less satisfactory," Veeresh Hiremath, head of research at Hyderabad-based Karvy Comtrade Ltd., said before the release of the data. “Water levels in reservoirs are better than last year and that’s a boon for the winter crops."

India’s 91 main reservoirs held 122.5 billion cubic meters of water as of Thursday, compared with 105 billion cubic meters a year earlier, according to the Central Water Commission.

Regional distribution

Showers in the southern state of Kerala were 23% more than normal — the highest surplus among regions —while the eastern state of Odisha got 12% more than average rainfall. Gujarat received 24% less than normal rain, while cumulative precipitation in Arunachal Pradesh was 32% below average.

Production of food grains, which are sown during the monsoon season, is expected to rise 0.6% in 2018-19 to 114.6 million metric tons, the government forecasts. Rice output will increase 1.8% to 99.2 million tons.

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