Boosting the prospect of robust foodgrain production in the 2018-19 (July-June) crop year, private weather forecaster Skymet on Wednesday predicted a ‘normal’ southwest monsoon with nil chances of a drought.
Boosting the prospect of robust foodgrain production in the 2018-19 (July-June) crop year — the last two years saw record output — private weather forecaster Skymet on Wednesday predicted a ‘normal’ southwest monsoon with nil chances of a drought. The agency was spot on when it forecast last year’s monsoon rains at 95% of the benchmark long period average (LPA). If the latest forecast turns out to be correct, the country will have near-normal to normal monsoon for the third year in a row, after two successive drought years. Almost 55% of the country’s agricultural land is rain-fed; while the monsoon has a significant impact on key kharif (summer) crops, distribution of rainfall across regions, sown area, temperature during harvest, etc, too impact output. A bumper harvest could positively impact farmer incomes, especially since the government is rolling out price-support schemes. This time around, while Skymet said there were 55% chances of monsoon to be normal, it predicted the rainfall to be 100% of the LPA (‘normal’ is defined as average rainfall between 96% and 104% of the LPA, which is 89 cm), with an error margin of +/- 5%. According to the agency, there is a 20% chance of ‘above-normal’ (105-110% of LPA) monsoon rain and a 20% chance of ‘below-normal’ rains (90-96% of LPA). However, the agency said southern peninsula and major portions of northeast India are likely to witness ‘below normal’ rainfall this season — though this could potentially impact pulses, coarse cereals and plantation crops cultivated in these regions, since last year’s monsoon rains in most of these areas except in Tamil Nadu was satisfactory, no major adverse impact on crop is seen even if the rainfall turns out to be slightly below normal this season. Some analysts however expressed concern over the low storage levels in key reservoirs.
The rains are also predicted to arrive in time for the crops. June will witness record excess rainfall, the agency said, and in July, which is crucial for all kharif crops, the rainfall is likely to be normal. India’s foodgrain production reached a record level of 275.11 million tonnes in the 2016-17 crop year and this was bettered in the subsequent year, with an output of 277.49 million tonnes. The official forecaster India Meteorological Department will come out with its first prediction of this year’s monsoon in the third week of this month. For last year, it predicted monsoon rains of 98% of LPA, while the actual rains were 95%. Devendra Kumar Pant, chief economist, India Ratings and Research, said, “This (normal rainfall predicted) is likely to have favourable impact on agriculture production in the country. However, the spatial distribution of rainfall is different from aggregate rainfall forecast. Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka (south interior Karnataka) and Andhra Pradesh (Rayalseema) are expected to have below-normal rainfall.” “Mapping the rainfall forecast with water storage in major reservoirs suggests southern India may face a water shortage in 2018 (storage at 21% of live storage capacity on March 22, 2018)… While water storage position in Northern region is most bleak (storage at 19%), forecast of normal to above normal rainfall not only brightens the prospects of good kharif harvest but also rabi harvest,” he added. “Devolving La Nina and gradual warming of the Pacific are ruling out the possibility of excess rains. Nevertheless, the Nino index and neutral Indian Ocean dipole may not have any adverse impact on the monsoon performance,” said Skymet’s CEO Jatin Singh. La Nina is associated with cooler-than-average sea surface temperatures in the central and eastern tropical Pacific Ocean. Singh said current weak La Nina conditions are prevailing over the Pacific Ocean and most likely, the transition of La Nina to ENSO (El Nino Southern Oscillation)-neutral conditions would take place during March to May.