The India Meteorological Department (IMD) on Tuesday reiterated that this year’s monsoon would be “normal”, and made a slightly improved forecast of the precipitation than predicted in April. According to its second long-range forecast, quantitatively, rainfall for the country as whole is likely to be 98% of the benchmark long-period average (LPA), with a model error of ± 4%. Rainfall at 96-104% of the LPA is considered normal. LPA rainfall is pegged at 89 cm, on the basis of the average between 1951 and 2000. In April, the IMD had predicted rainfall at 96% of the LPA with model error of ± 5%. According to an official, the IMD has upgraded the forecast after ruling out the possibility of any strong El Nino conditions developing in the later half of the monsoon months. El Nino is a weather phenomenon that causes warmer oceans in the equatorial Pacific region that is normally associated with a deficient rains. Month-wise average rainfall would be 96% and 99% of LPA in July and August, respectively, with a model error of ± 9%. Region-wise, the department said the overall rainfall during June-September period would be 96% of LPA over northwest India, 100% in agriculturally crucial central India, 99% over South peninsular and 96% of LPA over northeast India, all with a model error of ± 8%.
Last year, the IMD had made an initial forecast of “above normal” rainfall of 106% of the LPA, but the actual cumulative rainfall was just “normal” 97% of the LPA. Agriculture and allied sectors grew at a healthy 4.9% in 2016-17. A normal monsoon is expected to give a boost to agricultural production as the majority of farmland is rain-fed, and improve water reservoir levels leading to improvement in the supply of drinking water and higher hydel power output. Because of normal rainfall last year, the country’s foodgrain production in the 2016-17 crop year (July-June) is estimated to reach an all-time record of 273.38 million tonnes (mt), which is 8.7% more than the previous year. Due to two consecutive years of deficient monsoons (2014 and 2015), foodgrain production went down to 252 mt in 2014-15 and 2015-16 crop years from 265 mt reported in 2013-14. The monsoon rains are crucial for kharif crops like paddy, pulses and oilseeds. Around 55% of the country’s farmland are rain-fed. The monsoon rains also help in boosting the soil moisture for the rabi crop. The IMD’s monsoon categories are: Deficient (below 90% of the LPA), below normal (90-96%), normal (96-104%), above normal (104-110%) and excess (above 110% of the LPA).