The southwest monsoon, lifeline of tens of millions across the country, is expected to arrive over the Kerala coast on June 5, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) said on Thursday, “with a model error of plus or minus four days”. This implies the monsoon might be bit delayed as the normal date of arrival is June 1.
“We are expecting a slight delay in the monsoon onset than the normal date of arrival,” Reuters quoted D S Pai of IMD as saying. The delay, even slightly, may not augur well since IMD expects the southwest rain to be slightly below normal. It had earlier forecast rain to be at 95 per cent of the Long-Period Average (LPA, an average of the past 50 years), which is 89 cm. Monsoon rainfall of 96-104 per cent of the LPA is considered normal.
IMD had also said there was a 60 per cent chance of the dreaded El Niño weather phenomenon, which causes low rain, to impact India’s southwest monsoon. In the recent past. the years 2002, 2004 and 2009 were drought ones for this reason.
The four-month southwest monsoon season provides almost 70 per cent of the rain this country gets in a year. The rain is not only crucial for growth of kharif crops, planted during the season; it also provides the necessary moisture to the soil for the following, rabi, season. Despite agriculture’s falling share in gross domestic product, the monsoon has a cascading impact on the rural economy, as almost 60 per cent of India’s population live in villages. Less than normal rain could also put added pressure on the price of food commodities, particularly of oilseeds, pulses and vegetables, as cereal is mainly grown in those areas with good irrigation facilities.
In February itself, the Union agriculture ministry directed all states to prepare contingency plans for dealing with any situation arising out of insufficient rain in 2014. IMD said it would update its forecast in June and again in July.
Last month, Skymet, a non-government weather forecast agency, had said the southwest monsoon was expected to be below normal, at 94 per cent of the LPA, due to an evolving El Niño weather phenomenon.
Skymet had said the northwest (Gujarat, Punjab, Rajasthan, Haryana) and west-central (East MP, Chhattisgarh, Vidharbha, Marathwada, Madhya Maharashtra, Konkan and Goa, north Interior Karnataka and Telangana) could experience weak monsoon conditions this year.