The India Meteorological Department (IMD) on Saturday predicted a drier April than March, allaying fears of any further delay in harvesting of rabi crops, including wheat. The dry weather conditions this month are likely to help maturing of wheat and chana crops and speed up harvesting, with mid-April likely to be peak season, besides boosting the government’s wheat procurement operations, which commenced officially from Saturday.
Unseasonal rains since mid-March in some places caused damage to the standing crops, with output losses for wheat and chana estimated at 10% by sections of the trade. Horticulture and mustard crops have also been hit by the unexpected rain. The damages have been widespread, with north, west and eastern parts of the country affected.
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During the April-June period, the IMD predicted above-normal maximum temperatures in most parts of the country, except parts of northwest and peninsular region, meaning that for the second consecutive year, the country is likely to face a scorching summer.
“A significantly higher number of heatwave days are predicted over parts of Bihar, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh, Odisha, West Bengal, Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Punjab and Haryana,” said Mrutyunjay Mahapatra, director general, IMD. The country already logged its hottest February this year since record-keeping began in 1901, according to the IMD. A heatwave is declared if the maximum temperature of a station reaches at least 40 degrees Celsius in the plains, at least 37 degrees Celsius in coastal areas and at least 30 degrees Celsius in hilly regions, and the departure from normal is at least 4.5 degrees Celsius.
Anticipating rising demand for power because of high temperatures, the government has already asked coal-based power plants to run at full capacity for the second straight year.
Stating that El Nino, which weakens the intensity of monsoon rains but is currently at the neutral stage, Mohapatra said there is a strong possibility of the weather phenomenon developing during the June-September period, as predicted by many global models.
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However, the Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD), another phenomenon that impacts the Indian monsoon, is expected to be positive in the forthcoming monsoon months (June-September).
“It can’t be said with certainty at this point as to what impact El Nino will have on the Indian monsoon, because in the past all El Nino years haven’t been bad monsoon years,” Mohapatra said. IMD will release the first forecast for the monsoon this year by middle of April.
Because of normal monsoon rains last year, as per the second estimate of foodgrains production released by the agriculture ministry last week, total foodgrain production is also estimated to touch a record 323.55 million tonne (MT) in the 2022-23 crop year, higher by 7.93 MT from the previous year. The Food Corporation of India and state agencies aim to purchase 34 million tonne wheat in 2023 season from key wheat growing states to bolster grain stock.