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Data Drive: Rains below normal but less cloudy out there

At a time when the NDA government is looking for better growth this year, the India Meteorological Department (IMD)…

At a time when the National Democrtaic Alliance (NDA) government is looking for better growth this year, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) forecast of below normal rainfall—93% of the long period average (LPA)—raises concerns for the rural economy.

Last month’s unseasonal rains damaged 8.5 million hectares of rabi crops across 14 states, which prompted the Prime Minister to increase the compensation to farmers for damaged crops by 50%.

Since the weather agency’s accuracy record is not so inspiring, it it too early to press the panic button, as IMD’s first monsoon predictions in April have often diverged from actual rainfall. Recently, private weather forecasting agency Skymet had said that this year’s monsoon would be normal, at 102% of LPA. The Australian Bureau of Meteorology, has however, cautioned the likelihood of El Nino conditions this year. While El Nino conditions do increase the chances of below-normal monsoon, data show that, since 1950, there have been 19 such conditions and India has seen below normal rainfall in 11 cases, normal rains in 7 and excess in 1.

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But there are several mitigating factors as water storage in 91 key reservoirs remains comfortable, at 113% of the last ten-year average.

Agriculture productivity has improved as yield for foodgrains has increased to 2,010 kg/hectare from 1,727 a decade ago, and the contribution of winter crops has grown in the overall agriculture production. Moreover, Food Corporation of India’s buffer stock is at 34.32 MT (including unmilled paddy) against the government’s norms of 21.04 MT as on April 1. The second forecast by IMD in June should offer a clearer picture of the monsoon.

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