The southwest monsoon began retreating from parts of the northwestern region, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) said on Friday. The withdrawal signals the 13% rainfall deficit recorded so far might even worsen in the days ahead, as the monsoon tends to lose intensity further. However, sowing activity is almost over, with the area under summer-sown crops up 2% until Friday from a year before, showed agriculture ministry data.
The June-September monsoon usually begins withdrawing in the first week of this month, with September 1 being considered the ideal date. Typically, the monsoon withdrawal takes around a month, starting from west Rajasthan before advancing towards the east. This year, monsoon showers hit the Kerala coast — from where it enters the mainland — four days behind the ideal date of June 1 and covered the entire country only by July 17, marking a delay of two days from the usual date. “The southwest monsoon has withdrawn from the western parts of Rajasthan. The withdrawal line continues to pass through Anupgarh, Nagaur, Jodhpur and Barmer. Conditions are favourable for further withdrawal of the southwest monsoon from some more parts of northwest India during next three-four days,” IMD said.
Last year, though rainfall dropped 12% from the benchmark long-period average (LPA), a late pick-up delayed the withdrawal by about two weeks and left enough moisture in the soil for farmers to start planting rabi crops such as wheat and rapeseed from October.
The monsoon rainfall deficit widened a tad on Friday from 12% as late as Thursday. Even the geograpahical spread of monsoon rains is far from satisfactory. According to the IMD, 42% of the country received deficient rains (lower than 90% of the LPA), while a half has witnessed normal showers.
Barring a near 8% fall in areas under cotton, the coverage of all other major crops such as paddy, pulses, coarse cereals and oilseeds witnessed a rise, albeit marginal, in most cases. The total area under kharif crops touched 998.67 lakh hectares until Friday, compared with 979.4 lakh hectares a year before.
Some analysts have forecast a dip in kharif production from the record level of 2013-14, if not from the level recorded in 2014-15 — when the monsoon deficit was as high as 12%. In 2014-15, kharif grain production dropped to 126.31 million tonnes (MT) from 128.69 MT a year before. However, with the government holding grain stocks almost twice the requirement and inflation keeping low, analysts don’t see any irrational spiralling of food inflation this year.
The slowdown in the intensity of monsoons, particularly since early July, has resulted in India’s water reserves staying lower than a year earlier for a fifth straight week through September 3. Water reserves in the south, which has so far witnessed the worst rainfall deficit of 22%, were alarmingly low, at just 33% of the capacity, compared with the normal average of 75%. The IMD last month retained its earlier forecast of a deficient monsoon season for 2015, with rainfall at 88% of the LPA, the same as last year.