The summer-sown crop coverage was just over 1% higher than a year before until Friday, almost bridging a 63% year-on-year lead recorded up to July 17, according to the latest agriculture ministry data. While summer sowing is nearing its end, the withdrawal of monsoon rains this year may be delayed from the ideal date of September 1, as substantial changes to the wind pattern that usually signal the retreat of seasonal showers are yet to be witnessed, a senior government official told FE.
Monsoon rainfall has already dropped 12% from the benchmark long-period average as of Friday, compared with a 9% fall until a week before. Even the geographical spread of monsoon rains is far from satisfactory. According to the IMD, roughly 58% of the country’s area has received deficient rainfall (lower than 90% of the LPA) or even less.
Typically, the withdrawal of monsoon takes around a month, starting from west Rajasthan before advancing towards the east.
This year, monsoon shower 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.
Meanwhile, the India Meteorological Department has forecast below-normal rainfall activity over many parts of northwestern, westcentral and central India over the next two weeks. It has predicted normal-to-above-normal rainfall activity over eastern and northeastern parts of the country until September 2 and the shower could be in the range of normal-to-below normal during the second and third week of September. However, it expects normal-to-slightly-above-normal rainfall over southern peninsula during the September 4-13 period.
Barring an 8% fall in areas under cotton, the coverage of all other major crops witnessed a rise, albeit marginal in most cases. The total areas under the kharif crops touched 967.83 lakh hectares until Friday, compared with 956.93 lakh hectares a year before. Last year, sowing activity picked up late, as after initial dry-spells, monsoon rainfall gained momentum from mid-July.
The slowdown in the intensity of monsoon rains, particularly since early July, has resulted in the country’s water reserves staying lower than a year earlier for a fourth straight week through August 27. Water reserves in South — which has so far witnessed the worst rainfall deficit of 20% — were alarming low, at just 34% of the capacity, compared with the normal average of 72%. The IMD this month retained its earlier forecast of a deficient monsoon season for 2015, with rainfall at 88% of the LPA.