Above normal rains raise India harvest concerns

Above normal rains raise India harvest concerns

New Delhi: India’s monsoon rains were 19% above normal in the week to 15 Sept., the weather office said on Thursday, feeding concern cotton and groundnut harvests could be further delayed in Asia’s third-largest economy.

“The monsoon withdrawal is unlikely at least in the next couple of days," said a senior official of the weather office who did not wish to be named.

Rains had already exceeded averages by 26% in the previous week.

Signs of the monsoon’s withdrawal normally start from 1 Sept.

India relies heavily on the June-September monsoon but if the vital rains continue for long periods, crops can suffer damage from flooding and pest attacks and harvesting can be delayed, boosting prices and fuelling already high inflation.

India’s central bank raised rates on Thursday, keeping up its fight against inflation, which is still well above its comfort level.

In the cotton- and rice-producing Punjab, rains were 104% over averages for the week ending 15 Sept., the India Meteorological Department said on its website (http://www.imd.gov.in/section/hydro/img/week-rain.jpg).

Cane-growing western parts of Uttar Pradesh had rains 26% above normal in the week, the data showed.

In the western state of Gujarat, which produces cotton and groundnut, rains were between 183% and 346% above normal—potentially damaging crops by flooding and perhaps delaying harvests.

In Kerala, the country’s top producer of rubber, the weekly rains were 65% above normal.

Rain was 26% above normal in Uttar Pradesh, the country’s top cane producing state. In the main cane-growing areas of Maharashtra, the top sugar-producing state, the rains were 9% below normal, however.

India is a leading producer and consumer of grains, sugar, cooking oils, rubber and cotton.

The June-September monsoon rains deliver 75% to 90% of rainfall in the country, where only 40% of farms are irrigated.

Earlier this week, India’s weather office said the seasonal rains might ease nearly a month later than normal.

Experts said the unusually heavy rains in September, the last month of the four-month rainy season, could be attributed to the La Nina weather anomaly.

“Higher rains in September can be attributed to the La Nina effect," said D. Sivananda Pai, director of the National Climate Centre based in the western city of Pune.

Typical La Nina events are usually associated with stronger monsoons in most parts of Asia and Australia. It spawns colder-than-normal waters in the equatorial Pacific Ocean and can wreak havoc with weather patterns around the Asia-Pacific region.