NEW DELHI : The southwest monsoon is likely to get delayed further and hit the Kerala coast only on 8 June, the weather office said on Wednesday.

The India Meteorological Department (IMD) had earlier forecast monsoon onset over the mainland on 6 June, with rainfall seen at 96% of the 50-year long-term average (LPA) of 89 cm. The normal date of monsoon onset is 1 June.

“An east-west shear zone between 3.1 km and 4.5 km above mean sea level runs roughly along Lat. 7°N across Maldives-Comorin area. It is very likely to shift northwards, gradually leading to favourable conditions for onset of southwest monsoon over Kerala around 8 June," the IMD said.

Conditions are likely to become favourable for the monsoon to advance in some parts of northeastern states during the next three to four days, it added.

El Niño conditions, though weak, have led to fears of the phenomenon still hurting rainfall activity in the first two months of the monsoon season.

El Niño, characterized by higher than normal sea surface temperature in east central Pacific Ocean, is associated with poor monsoon rains in India. Of the 20 drought years in India since 1901, 13 were associated with El Niño.

Millions of Indian farmers depend on rains for agriculture, making the summer monsoon season crucial for the domestic economy. Rainfall during the four-month accounts for over 75% of the country’s annual showers and irrigates over half its farms.

Rainfall is termed normal when the quantum of rain is 96-104% of LPA. IMD’s prediction of normal monsoon rains this year is at variance with that of private weather forecaster Skymet, and some other global weather agencies, which expect El Niño to linger till the end of the monsoon season, resulting in poor rains. Skymet has forecast below normal monsoon rains for 2019, with rainfall seen at 93% of the LPA.

Pre-monsoon rainfall in the country this time was the second-lowest in 65 years, according to Skymet. The country recorded rainfall deficiency of 25% during March-May, with all the four meteorological divisions—Northwest India, Central India, East-Northeast India and South Peninsula—recording deficit rainfall.

Indian farmers likely harvested 283.37 million tonnes of foodgrain in 2018-19 (July-June) crop year, less than the 285.01 million tonnes harvested in the previous year, according to the government’s third advance estimates. The fall in output largely comes in the wake of a decline in production of pulses and coarse cereals, even as record rice and wheat crop were harvested.

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