New Delhi: In line with several weather forecasting agencies, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) has forecast “normal rainfall" in the June-September monsoon and tempered concerns about a drought as unlikely.

While several states along India’s west coast including Kerala, Karnataka, Maharashra and Gujarat saw drought conditions last year, the meteorological department’s prediction is likely to provide a measure of relief to policymakers, and, if it turns out to be right, will deliver a boost to the rain-dependent agricultural sector that employs six out of 10 Indian workers.

Monsoon rainfall will be around 98% of the 50-year average of 89cm, science minister Jaipal Reddy said at a press conference in New Delhi on Friday while announcing IMD’s findings.

To be sure, IMD forecast normal monsoon rain last year as well. India, however, saw a 7% deficit, or “below normal rainfall", mainly due to poor rain in June and July that IMD said was “unforeseen".

The meteorological department classifies rainfall within a 4% window of 89cm as normal and a 5-15% deficiency as “below normal". Anything lower, or less than 81cm, usually portends drought conditions.

India’s economy is expected to have grown at its slowest rate in a decade at 5% in the financial year ended 31 March and has been projected to grow at 6.4% in the current financial year 2013-14, above the market expectation of around 6% growth.

IMD will update the monsoon forecast towards the end of June, when it will also estimate the rainfall for July and August, during which most of India gets the maximum rain, and gauge how the monsoon will progress over broad geographical divisions such as the northwest, northeast, south and central India.

The April forecast is at best an initial indicator and IMD’s estimates are conservative. In the last five years, only twice has monsoon rainfall been less than what IMD indicated in April, most significantly in 2009, when India received only 78% of the average instead of IMD’s prediction of 96%. Moreover, IMD’s forecasting models have an error margin of 5%.

Although inflation based on the wholesale price index declined sharply to 5.96% in March from 6.84% in February, retail inflation remained in double digits at 10.39% in March.