India's erratic monsoon rain below average in past week

Written by Reuters | New Delhi | Updated: Aug 14 2014, 22:54pm hrs
India's monsoon rainfall has been below average in the past week after running through a phase above average since early August which helped finish the last leg of sowing of main summer crops such as rice, corn, sugar cane, soybean and cotton.

India's farming sector accounts for around 14 percent of the economy, but two-thirds of the nation's 1.2 billion people depend on farming for a livelihood and more than half of its arable land needs the summer rains.

The monsoon weakened, registering 20 percent below average rainfall in the week that ended on Aug. 13 as the near 10-day phase of above-average rain came to an end.

In the previous week, rainfall was 19 percent above average as the monsoon staged a late revival in the grain belt of northwest India, and in cotton, oilseed growing areas of western and central regions.

"Soybean sowing is over and now the oilseed crop needs rains at seven to 10 days interval for nourishment," said Rajesh Agrawal, chief coordinator of the Soybean Processors Association of India (SOPA), a leading trade body based at the central city of Indore, a soybean hub.

Many parts of the cane-growing western state of Maharashtra saw floods and landslides due to heavy rainfall. Some rice-growing areas of eastern Odisha were also under water.

"Rainfall activities will remain active in eastern and north east regions in the next week, while the monsoon is expected to be weak over the rest of the country," said B.P. Yadav, head of the National Weather Forecasting Centre at the India Meteorological Department (IMD).

Crops do not require heavy rainfall once planted though need rains at regular intervals to ensure a healthy growth in the run up to maturity until September.

"Most of the summer crops have entered either germination or vegetative growth stage when they do not need heavy rainfall but need mild showers at regular intervals," said N. Chattopadhyay, deputy director general of IMD.

A late revival of the monsoon helped complete this year's delayed sowing of the summer crops, which started late due to a weak first half of the June-September monsoon season.

Earlier this week, the Indian weather office scaled down its rainfall forecast for the four-month long season to 87 percent of a 50-year average, but said there was no evidence of the first drought in five years since 2009.

The weather office expects the second half of the monsoon season from August to have better rainfall than the deficit of 22 percent below average for the first half of the season.