Close to four weeks after the south-west monsoon hit Indian shores, the spread of rains has been rather uneven with the country’s north-western regions and parts of southern India getting more showers than normal while central, eastern and north-eastern regions continue to be in the ‘deficient’ rainfall zones. Though these are still early days as June rainfalls constitute only 18% of the total precipitation during monsoon months (June-September), the India Meteorological Department (IMD) in its latest bulletin has predicted likely advancement of monsoon into Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar and east UP during the next 2-3 days.
Till now, regions such as Gujarat, east UP, east Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, south interior Karnataka and Kerala have got ‘deficient’ rainfall while rest of the country has got’ normal’ rains. Some of these regions are key producers of paddy, pulses, oilseeds and cotton and the progress of monsoon into these regions would be critical to boost kharif crop prospects, especially given a major chunk of farmland is still rain-fed (see chart).
Thanks to early onset of monsoon this year, sowing of kharif crops — paddy, pulses, oilseeds, sugarcane and cotton started on a brisk note. Areas sown of key crops except pulses have been about 10% higher than the level at the same time last year, with the overall sowing is reported at 130.74 lakh hectare. By this time, around 15 % of the sowing is usually done.
Meanwhile, six reservoirs in north regions located in Punjab, Himachal Pradesh and Rajasthan at present have only 25% of their capacities filled against last ten-year average of 30%. Also, because of deficient monsoon rains in Kerala, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu last year, water table at 32 key reservoirs across southern India plummeted to the lowest in the last one decade and so monsoon rains in the next couple of weeks would be critical to replenish them. Reservoirs not only help irrigation and drinking water but also are critical for hydel power production.
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Earlier this month the met department has predicted that monsoon season rainfall for the country as a whole is likely to be 98% of the bench mark Long Period Average (LPA) with a model error of ±4%, while the heartening factor is that the showers in July, which has 33% share in overall monsoon rains would be 96% of its LPA. August which has share of 29% in overall monsoon rains is expected to receive shower at 99% of LPA.
Because of normal rainfall last year, the country’s food grains production in 2016-17 crop year (July-June) is estimated to reach an all-time record of 273.38 million tonne (MT), which is 8.7% more than the previous year. Due to two consecutive years of deficient monsoons (2014 & 2015), the food grains production went down to 252 MT in 2014-15 and 2015-16 crop years from 265 MT reported in 2013-14.