The Met’s ‘good rain’ forecast: Here’s the other side of the coin

The India Meteorological Department (IMD) has predicted an above-average monsoon for this year. (PTI)
The India Meteorological Department (IMD) has predicted an above-average monsoon for this year. (PTI)


  • An even distribution of rain will help India curb its food inflation as well

The met department’s forecast of above-normal rains is a breather for India’s sluggish farm economy and tepid rural consumption. But high chances of excess rains and the havoc they can wreak are an early warning for governments to stay alert and prepared. Mint explains.

What are the positives from the forecast?

The India Meteorological Department (IMD) has forecast the June-September south-west monsoon to be above normal, at 106% of the long period or 50-year average. Being a lifeline for India’s rain-fed Kharif crop season, the forecast raises hopes of a revival in farm sector growth. Government estimates show that farm growth slowed to 0.7% in FY24, from 4.7% in FY23. Uneven rains—drought in some parts and floods in others—was one reason. A good harvest this year will improve farm income and rural wage growth. This will boost sales of consumption items such as soaps and hair oils, which have been tepid for some time.

And what are the upside risks?

Over the past few years, the number of extreme rainfall days during the monsoon season have increased. This is a fallout of global warming. As per the IMD forecast, there is a 30% probability that rains will be in ‘excess’ category, or over 110% of the long period average (LPA). The likelihood that rains will be above normal or more than 104% of LPA is very high—a 61% probability. This means parts of India risk going under the water, leading to loss of life, property, infrastructure, and harvest-ready crops. This is an early warning for both states and the central government to stay alert and be prepared to handle an emergency.

Will this forecast be updated?

The IMD will issue an update to its April forecast, in end-May, just before the monsoon hits the southern state of Kerala. This will provide a clearer picture of how rainfall will be spread in different regions and over the four-month-long season. A dry first-half (June and July) and an extremely wet second-half when harvest begins, raises the risk of damage to crops.

Why are rains likely to be above normal?

According to IMD, El Nino conditions are likely to weaken in the early part of the monsoon, while La Nina conditions are likely to develop during the second half. El Nino and La Nina, sea surface temperatures over the Pacific and the Indian ocean, strongly influence the monsoon rains. While the former raises the risk of low rainfall, the latter is associated with a surplus. La Nina conditions are likely to be aided by a positive Indian Ocean Dipole—which cools the water more than normal—bringing more rains.

Will the monsoon impact food prices?

In March, retail food inflation was 8.5%, a tad below February. The current rise in food prices is led by cereals (8.4% higher), vegetables (28.3%) and pulses (17.7%). Uneven rains in 2024 can hit production of these commodities, pushing prices up and straining family budgets. For now, the IMD expects above-normal rains over most of India except parts of North-west, East and North-east India. The best one can hope for is well-distributed rains and not extreme downpour in a short period of time. That should keep a lid on food prices.

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