Monsoon on track after cyclone scare: Met office

Monsoon on track after cyclone scare: Met office

New Delhi: The annual monsoon, halted by cyclone Laila last week, is likely to hit India’s southern coast on schedule in the next 3-4 days, weather officials said on Thursday.

Facing high food prices after the monsoon failed last year, India is counting heavily on normal June-September rainfall to help the government tackle supply-side inflation.

Street protests over high prices have kept the government under pressure, and if the rains fail and inflation soars, it could force an interest rate hike, complicating government plans to borrow around $100 billion (Rs47,600 crore) during the current fiscal.

“Conditions are becoming favourable for onset of south-west monsoon over Kerala during the next 3-4 days," the weather office said.

The start of monsoon rains on schedule would help timely sowing of rice, corn, soybean and cotton in India, where 60% of the farms depend entirely on rainfall for irrigation.

Monsoon winds were weak, and may need up to two days to strengthen, said D. Sivananda Pai, director of the National Climate Center in Pune.

The India Meteorological Department has forecast that the monsoon will hit the mainland on 30 May, two days before normal, by entering Kerala. “It is already raining in Kerala, but we are waiting for certain characteristics of monsoon," Pai said.

Officials say that they declare the onset of monsoon only if the rainfall on the southern tip of the country is accompanied by other developments, including a particular level of moisture in the air, the spread of rains and other parameters.

B.N. Goswami, director of the Pune-based Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology, said weather conditions over the Indian Ocean did not signal an early arrival of monsoon rains. “This is because large-scale conditions over the equatorial Indian Ocean are still not favourable for a timely onset."

The monsoon rains had not advanced for the past six days because of cyclone Laila, but this was not yet a big cause for concern, officials and experts said.

This year, the monsoon reached the first destination of its four-month journey across the subcontinent—the Andaman and Nicobar Islands—on 17 May, instead of the usual 20 May, before moving to many parts of the Bay of Bengal in the following week.