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Business News/ News / Monsoon rains to be below normal in northwest, normal in rest of India: IMD

Monsoon rains to be below normal in northwest, normal in rest of India: IMD

In a relief, however, less than normal rainfall in northwest India is unlikely to have any significant impact on agriculture


New Delhi: India will receive normal rains during the crucial southwest monsoon season despite the emergence of the El Nino weather phenomenon, the weather bureau said on Friday.

Rains, which typically arrive in Kerala around 1 June and retreat by 30 September, are seen at 96-104% of the long-period average (LPA) this year, with an error margin of 4%. 

East and northeast, central, and south peninsula are expected to receive normal rainfall at 94-106%. However, showers in India's northwest may be below normal at 92% of LPA during the June-September season because of El Nino, the India Meteorological Department said.

The weather bureau divides the whole of India in four homogeneous regions: northwest, central, south peninsula, and east and northeast India. The IMD defines average, or normal, rainfall as ranging between 96% and 104% of the 50-year average of 87 cm for the four-month season.

“It is El Nino and positive IOD this year (Indian Ocean Dipole)...we are expecting the impact of El Nino in central India to be compensated by positive IOD. However, this may not happen in the case of northwest India," said D. S. Pai, head, Environment Monitoring and Research Centre (EMRC).

El Nino is caused due to unusual warming of water in the eastern equatorial Pacific that has a high correlation with warmer summers and weaker monsoon rains in India.

On the other hand, a positive IOD is likely to develop during June-August. Positive IOD refers to the temperature difference between western and eastern Indian Ocean, and is good for southwest monsoon and could result in more precipitation in central India.

Monsoon is crucial for Asia's third-largest as it delivers nearly 70% of annual rainfall to India, making it important for farming activities. Nearly half of India's arable land doesn't have access to irrigation and depends on these rains to grow crops such as rice, corn, cane, cotton and soybeans.

About 56% of the net cultivated area of the country is rain-fed accounting for 44% of food production, making rains essential for India's food security.

June is seen drier across most of the country except the southern peninsula and the northeast, IMD said. June accounts for 16-17% of total monsoon rains and is crucial for sowing of kharif crops.

In a relief, however, less than normal rainfall in northwest India is unlikely to have any significant impact on agriculture operations, economists and analysts said. 

“Rice is the crop that is dependent on monsoon for sowing. However, monsoon less than 92% of LPA in northwestern states may not be a major issue as Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and Haryana are rich in irrigation," said Madan Sabnavis, chief economist of Bank of Baroda. “Sowing would be deferred in Rajasthan until the monsoon arrives."

In central India, which grows most of the oilseeds such as soybean, rains are seen normal and thus bode well for sowing operations. 

Rajasthan largely grows coarse cereals and as such can wait for rains, Sabnavis added.

IMD recommends a region-wise crop sowing plan depending on the progress of the monsoon rains. Its extended-range forecast and the short-range forecast also help states plan. IMD will be issuing advisories for farmers and regularly brief the government on the outlook, said Pai.

Pai added that the monsoon current has advanced into some parts of southeast Bay of Bengal, Nicobar Islands and south Andaman Sea, and conditions are favourable for it to further advance into some more parts of south Bay of Bengal, Andaman Sea and Andaman and Nicobar Islands in the next two days.

IMD has maintained that monsoon will set over Kerala on 4 June, with an error margin of days. Once the monsoon sets in over Kerala, the progress is expected to be fast, Pai said.

"A slightly late onset and below normal rainfall in June 2023 can be mitigated by the seasonally healthy reservoir levels. A normal distribution of rainfall in July 2023 will be critical to ensure timely sowing of kharif crops over most of the country," said Aditi Nayar, chief economist and head-Research & Outreach, Icra Ltd.

As per Central Water Commission (CWC), India's 146 reservoirs as of Thursday held a total of 54.577 billion cubic meters (BCM) of water, which is 5% lower on year, but 23% higher than the 10-year average.

ICRA expects the GDP growth to moderate to 6% in FY24, with a downside risk of up to 50 bps because of the likely effect El Nino on India's farm production, even as frontloaded capex by the government and states and a rapid execution of infra projects could provide an upside.

The IMD said that El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) conditions have been observed across the equatorial Pacific with near to above average sea surface temperature (SST) over most of the central and the east equatorial Pacific. There are high probabilities for the development of El Niño conditions during the upcoming monsoon season, Pai said, attributing the latest forecast from monsoon mission coupled forecasting system (MMCFS) and other global models. 

El Nino conditions are likely to continue until winter 2024, as per IMD.


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Puja Das
Puja Das is a New Delhi based reporter, covering food, farm, fertiliser, water, and climate change policies for Mint. Puja reports on food security, farmers' distress and how the agriculture sector is impacting India's rural economy along with policy initiatives to help meet the pledges made at COP21 in Paris. Puja holds a post-graduation degree in Broadcast Journalism from the Indian Institute of Journalism & New Media, Bangalore.
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Published: 26 May 2023, 12:47 PM IST
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