The India Meteorological Department (IMD) on Monday predicted that this year\u2019s southwest monsoon rainfall to be \u2018near normal,\u2019 at 96% of the benchmark long-period average (LPA), in what augurs well for the country's foodgrain production, but not necessarily for farmers\u2019 income as high production in recent years have co-existed with rural distress. In the past two years, too, IMD\u2019s first forecasts were of normal monsoon \u2013 rainfall range of 96-104% of LPA \u2014 but in both the years, rains turned out to be below normal \u2013 95% in 2017 and 91% in 2018. It is another matter that since distribution of the rains were good, the crops were robust in both the years \u2013 an all-time high 284.8 million tonne in 2017-18 crop year and 281.4 million tonne in 2018-19. READ ALSO |\u00a0IMD forecasts \u2018near normal\u2019 monsoon this year; weather cheer for farmers It may also be noted that IMD suggested a forecast possibility \u2018deficient\u2019 (<90%) or \u2018below-normal\u2019 (90-96%) monsoon of an aggregate of 49%. Private forecaster Skymet had earlier predicted the impending monsoon rainfall to be \u2018below normal\u2019 , quantitatively 93% of LPA. The seasonal rainfall this year is likely to be 96% of LPA with a model error of plus or minus 5%, M Rajeevan, secretary at ministry of earth sciences, said, adding that the distribution would be \u201cas good as in 2017.\u201d India had seen below deficient monsoon in 2014 and 2015 where the 2013 was one of \u2018above normal\u2019 rainfall. There was a major deficit in northeast region during last year monsoon, Ramesh said, adding that since the region receives high level of rainfall in quantitative term, the deficit did not impact much. Except for Gujarat and parts of Maharashtra, other regions had received good rainfall in 2018. He also said the weather bureau would release the next update on the monsoon in June with detailed forecast on each region as well as for every month after studying the pattern of rain. Skymet has predicted lower rainfall in Bihar, Jharkhand, West Bengal, Madhya Pradesh, parts of Maharashtra and north interior Karnataka during monsoon. About the crucial north-western region comprising Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan, which is considered the food bowl of India, the available data are not sufficient to come to any conclusion, according to Skymet's chief executive Jatin Singh. According to DS Pai, head of monsoon forecast division of IMD, the ENSO (El Ni\u00f1o Southern Oscillation) condition is though positive, the weak El Ni\u00f1o (currently at 0.9 degree) will further weaken during the monsoon season which is good for India. El Ni\u00f1o, which is associated with warmer-than-average sea surface temperatures in the central and eastern tropical Pacific Ocean, normally brings lower monsoon rainfall, though there is no one-on-one relationship. It develops when the surface temperatures of the the Pacific rise above normal.