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Business News/ News / India/  IMD retains normal monsoon forecast
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IMD retains normal monsoon forecast

Normal rainfall leads to robust crop production, helping keep a lid on food prices, especially vegetables.

Representative image (HT)Premium
Representative image (HT)

NEW DELHI : The India Meteorological Department on Friday retained its forecast for a normal monsoon despite the developing El Nino weather pattern that disrupts rainfall and causes droughts in parts of India.

Overall, rainfall in the June-September monsoon season is seen to be at 96-104% of the long-period average (LPA) based on rainfall data from 1971 to 2020. However, rainfall is likely to be below normal at <92% of LPA in northwest India, with an error margin of +/-4%. The east and northeast, north and northeast, central and south peninsula are expected to receive normal rainfall of 94-106% of LPA. The IMD issues its preliminary forecast in April and subsequently provides an updated version in late May.

Indian farms rely heavily on monsoon rainfall, with 56% of the net cultivated area and accounting for 44% of food production being rain-fed. Normal rainfall leads to robust crop production, helping keep a lid on food prices, especially vegetables. Although inflation has cooled to an 18-month low, deficient rainfall can lead to another spurt in inflation, complicating the Reserve Bank of India’s task to contain price rises.An El Nino year, like 2023, is linked to subdued rains in the northwest and central India and above-normal rainfall in the northeast, said IMD’s Environment Monitoring and Research Centre head D.S. Pai. However, the developing El Niño weather pattern is likely to be offset by a positive Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD), he added.

“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." Positive IOD refers to the temperature differential between the western and eastern Indian Oceans and is good for the southwest monsoon in the country. IMD divides India into four homogeneous regions—northwest, central, south peninsula, and east and northeast India.

Below-normal rainfall in northwest India is not expected to impact agriculture much, experts 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 may be deferred in Rajasthan until the monsoon arrives." June is seen to be drier in most of the regions except the south peninsula and northeastern areas, IMD said. June accounts for 16-17% of monsoon rainfall, and farmers sow kharif crops after the first rainfall spell. On the arrival of the southwest monsoon, Pai said it made initial progress, reaching certain areas of the southeast Bay of Bengal, Nicobar Islands, and south Andaman Sea, and conditions are favourable for it to advance into more parts of the south Bay of Bengal, Andaman Sea and Andaman and Nicobar Islands in the next two days.

Once the monsoon sets in over Kerala, the progress of the monsoon is expected to be faster, Pai said.

“A slightly late onset and below normal rainfall in June 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," Aditi Nayar, chief economist, head of research and outreach, ICRA Ltd told Mint.

According to the latest bulletin by the Central Water Commission (CWC), the current storage of 146 reservoirs in the country as of Thursday stands at 54.577 billion cubic meters, which is 5% lower than a year earlier, but 23% higher than the average of the past 10 years.

ICRA expects the GDP growth to be moderate to 6% in FY24, with a downside risk of up to 50 basis points from the materialization of El Nino conditions, even as frontloaded capex by the government and the states and rapid execution of infrastructure projects could provide an upside.

Updating on the El Nino weather pattern, IMD said the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) conditions are observed across the equatorial Pacific with near to above average sea surface temperature 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. El Nino conditions are likely to continue until winter 2024, IMD added. El Nino is caused due to unusual warming of water in the eastern equatorial Pacific.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
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, 11:13 PM IST
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