New Delhi: Though the India Meteorological Department’s (IMD) first attempt at predicting August rainfall in late June with a new weather model has failed, the department will still use it next year, said IMD chief Ajit Tyagi.

Dry spell: Two farmers in their parched fields near Bhopal in May. The Centre says the area under sowing is 20% less than last year. AFP

On 24 June, IMD had predicted August rainfall over the country to be 101% of its 50-year average of 26.2 cm. But with a break in rainfall since late July, the weather office on Monday said August was unlikely to get more than 90% of its normal level.

India’s monsoon rainfall is only 82% of what’s normal for June, July and the first week of August. This shortfall prompted the nodal weather agency on Monday to downgrade its overall estimate for June-September monsoon rain by 6 percentage points, to 87% of the long-period average of 89 cm.

The June-September monsoon accounts for nearly 80% of India’s annual rainfall and is vital for the economy, being the main source of water for agriculture, which accounts for around 17% of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP). Other than the 60% of the country’s workforce that depends on agriculture, the rains are also important for traders dealing in food and cash crops.

Finance minister Pranab Mukherjee said on Tuesday that 161 of the country’s 604 districts have been declared drought-prone. He also said the area under sowing is 20% less than last year. India is heavily dependent on the June-September monsoon rains for farm output, to help rural income and to drive economic growth, he added.

The Supreme Court on Tuesday expressed concern that spiralling food prices due to the failure of the monsoon could hurt the common man. It asked the Central and state governments to extend all possible financial, administrative and technical help to an expert government committee to recommend measures to overcome a growing water crisis in the country.

(‘Bloomberg’ and ‘Reuters’ contributed to this story.)