Home / Industry / Agriculture /  IMD expects normal monsoon rainfall for fourth straight year

NEW DELHI : Monsoon rainfall in India is likely to be normal for the fourth straight year, the country’s weather department forecasted on Thursday, potentially boosting farm output and cooling inflation that has become a key concern for policymakers.

The June-to-September rainy season is likely to receive 99% of long-period average (LPA) rainfall, with an error margin of +/-5%, the India Meteorological Department said in its long-range forecast on Thursday. Monsoon is considered normal when rains are between 96% and 104% of the LPA, or the mean rainfall for the period between 1971 to 2020.

The ‘normal’ forecast comes as a big relief for policymakers grappling with surging inflation and slowing growth. The monsoon rainfall, which irrigates more than half of the country’s farmland, is critical for economic growth and rural incomes. With inflation in India near the 7% mark in March, a normal monsoon would help boost crop output, helping ease spiralling food prices.

The weather department said there is a 40% probability of a normal monsoon this year. La Niña conditions, favourable for monsoon, are prevailing over the equatorial Pacific region and are likely to continue during the monsoon season, according to forecasts based on climate models.

“Most La Nina years are associated with normal or above normal rain," said M. Mohapatra, director-general, IMD.

The monsoon rains, which first hits Kerala around 1 June, are crucial for summer crops and bring about 70% of India’s annual rainfall. Although agriculture accounts for just 15% of India’s gross domestic product, it remains the primary source of livelihood for nearly 60% of its population.

There is an average 12 mm drop in monsoon rains and 16.8 mm in annual rainfall from 1961 to 2010 to 1971-2020. The decrease is part of a natural multidecadal epochal variability of dry and wet epochs of all-India rainfall, IMD said in a statement.

“Presently, the southwest monsoon is passing through a dry epoch, which started in the decade of 1971-80. The decadal average of all-India southwest monsoon rainfall for the decade 2011-20 is 3.8% of the long-term average. The current decade (2021-30) is expected to come closer to neutral and southwest monsoon would enter the wet in the 2031-40 decade," IMD said.

IMD’s Mohapatra explained that India is already in the neutral epoch of monsoon.

“Monsoon rainfall is near normal now; it is only 3.8% less than the long-term mean. If you look at the monsoon rainfall trends in the past few years, you will see that we have nearly approached the normal monsoon state from the dry monsoon epoch and are heading towards a wet monsoon epoch."

“Will the wet monsoon epoch be beneficial for agriculture? Not necessarily," said Mohapatra. “We have a very large country, and the impact of the wet epoch will be different for different regions. There can be more floods in some regions which is not good for agriculture. Heavy and extremely heavy rainfall events are also on the rise due to climate change which may also intensify," he added.

“Since the 1980s, we have been seeing a below normal phase of monsoon. Before that, it was in the above normal epoch for a few decades. This is decadal variation in monsoon rain. Now we are gradually turning towards a period when we can expect normal monsoon rain and above normal thereafter. So we should expect more rainfall," said D.S. Pai, a director at the Institute of Climate Change Studies, Kerala, and a former scientist at the weather bureau.

“The frequency of heavy rainfall events is increasing, so more rain can be detrimental. For example, if there is extremely heavy rain during sowing, the seeds can wash away or, at other times, fertilizers can wash away. The timing is important," he added.

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