Monsoon patchy for second week

Monsoon patchy for second week

New Delhi: India’s monsoon rains need to pick up in August after two straight weeks of below normal showers to help make up for the loss in soil moisture and aid vegetative growth of crops such as rice, cane, corn, cotton, and soybean.

The June-September rains in India, the world’s second-biggest producer of rice, cotton and sugar, were 22% below normal in the week to 3 August after being 23% below average in the previous week.

The state-run weather office said monsoon rains, which irrigate 60% of India’s farms and deliver 75-90% of total rainfall, were 6% below normal between 1 June and 3 August. Last month, the weather office forecast rains just slightly below average for the entire June to September season.

In the week to 3 August, West Bengal and Orissa, which produce about a fifth of the India’s 95 million tonnes of rice, had rains between 38% and 69% below normal.

The Andhra Pradesh, which is important for rice and also cotton, saw rains 6-28% above normal, on the other hand.

Rains were 30% below normal in the soybean growing Madhya Pradesh whereas cotton and groundnut producing Gujarat got 104 percent above normal showers.

Although rains have been poor in some parts of India, the situation is not alarming, experts said.

“We know that overall monsoon rains will be slightly below normal this year and rains have been either delayed or lower in some parts of the country but I do not see it as a concern yet," said N. Bhanumurty, professor of the National Institute of Public Finance and Policy, a New Delhi-based think tank.

In June, the weather office said rains would be 95% of the long-term average, down from its April forecast of 98% and just short of the 96-104% range which counts as normal monsoon.

India has experienced a weak patch in the monsoon rains in mid-season in previous years but avoided any major disruption to output. In 2009, rains were 23% below normal in the season and that resulted in a severe drought that slashed crop production.

“Obviously, August rains need to be good to help neutralize the shortfall in weekly rains. Let us see how that pans out. But there is no need for any alarm now," Bhanumurty said.

If rains remain poor in the weeks to come, growth of oilseeds, lentils, cotton and guar seed could be hit, said Chowda Reddy, senior analyst with JRG Wealth Management, a brokerage based in Hyderabad.

On Wednesday, weather officials said rains might revive over central and northern states next week, allaying fears of a third straight week of poor showers hitting output prospects for crops planted in the rainy months of June and July.

India’s weather office divides the entire country into 36 meteorological sub-divisions and till now 26 of them have received either normal or above normal rains.

Despite poor rains in the past two weeks, most concerns are only over summer-sown rice, which needs submerged fields.

India may miss a target for a record 102 million tonnes rice production in the 2011-12 crop year because of scanty rains but should still have supplies to meet demand.