Private weather forecaster Skymet expects below normal monsoon rains from June through September. The agency today said that it expects monsoon to be 93% of the long-term average. Skymet attributed developing El Nino phenomenon for its forecast of below normal monsoon.

Skymet believes that the chances of below normal rain are 55%.

Monsoon, the lifeblood for India's agri-sector, arrives on the southern tip of Kerala around June 1 and retreat from Rajasthan by September.

Farming output makes up just less than 14% of India's economy but the sector employs more than half of the country's 1.3 billion population.

A strong El Nino, marked by a warming of the sea surface on the Pacific Ocean, can cause severe drought in many regions like Australia, Southeast Asia and India, while drenching other parts of the world such as the US Midwest and Brazil.

"The Pacific Ocean has become strongly warmer than average. The model projections call for 80% chance of El Nino during March-May, dropping to 60% for June to August," said Jatin Singh, managing director of Skymet.

"This means, it is going to be a devolving El Nino year, though retaining threshold values all through the season. Thus, monsoon 2019 is likely to be below normal."

The emergence of a strong El Nino triggered back-to-back droughts in 2014 and 2015.

Skyment's forecast come a day before the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) is set to announce its first interest rate decision for the fiscal year 2019-20. Most analysts expected it to cut repo rate by 25 basis points amid subdued inflation. But the central bank's inflation outlook could also be upset by the risk of sharply higher food prices if the monsoon season rains disappoint.

Annual retail inflation was just 2.57% in February following five months of deflation in food prices, and the RBI has projected a rise to 3.9% by the end of December. But that could change quickly if the monsoon fails or global oil prices surge. (With Agency Inputs)

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