Monsoon woes in India: A midsummer nightmare

Written by fe Bureau | New Delhi | Updated: Jul 12 2014, 13:23pm hrs
MonsoonThe sluggish progress of rains after a five-day delay in the arrival of the monsoon over the Keratin coast have severely affected the sowing of summer crops.
Summer planting had tumbled by almost half until Friday from a year earlier, seasonal showers have trailed a benchmark average by 43% as of Thursday and water reserve levels dropped from a 10-year average for the first time this year, presenting a string of woes for the new government preparing to face the first drought in five years, reports fe Bureau in New Delhi. Importantly, rainfall so far this season has been lower than even 2009 when the country witnessed the worst drought in 37 years as the deficit was 36% during the same period that year.

In 2009-10, the drought shrank grain production by 6%, pushed food inflation up by 15.27% and drove down farm sector growth to a paltry 0.8%, compared with the overall economic growth of 8.6%.

The sluggish progress of rains after a five-day delay in the arrival of the monsoon over the Keratin coast have severely affected the sowing of summer crops.

Click here for graph

Late last month, private forecaster Skymet warned of a 60% probability of a drought year. According to the India Meteorological Department (IMD), only 15% of the country has received normal rainfall while 52% and 33% of the areas have received deficit and scanty rainfall, respectively.

The IMD defines rainfall between 96-104% of the long-period average as normal and below 90% as scanty rainfall.

However, in a sign of some relief, the IMD said on Friday that conditions are favourable for further advance of the southwest monsoon into some more parts of Gujarat during next two days. Gujarat, Maharashtra and parts of Madhya Pradesh that are part of the central region have received scanty monsoon rainfall till now.

According to the Met department, heavy rainfall would occur at many places over Chhattisgarh, West Bengal, Odisha, Jharkhand, Assam & Meghalaya, Telangana and coastal Karnataka during next two days. However, northern regions are unlikely to get any monsoon rains over the next few days, the IMD said.

In June, the IMD had forecast that monsoon rains this year would be 93% of the LPA, with a 33% probability of deficient monsoon rains and 70% chances of a recurrence of an El Nino system. It had forecast the worst deficit in rainfall (15%) for the northwestern region this year.

The latest weather update by private weather forecaster Skymet said weather in the key oilseeds-producing states of Rajasthan and adjoining areas like northwest Madhya Pradesh and Haryana is expected to be hot and dry in the coming days.

Consequently, the area under paddy, the most water-intensive summer crop, until Friday dropped 17.6% from a year before to 86.40 lakh hectares. The planting of different oilseed crops, however, has been hit the hardest with an 80% decline from a year ago.

Poor rains affected water storage levels across the country, taking them 34% lower than the levels a year earlier and trailed even a 10-year average of 40.55 billion cubic metres for the first time this season,by 10%.