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Rains hit Andamans earlier than expected

The southwest monsoon made its first foray towards India this year and reached the Andaman coast on Sunday, around two days before its scheduled arrival.

However, experts said after its first landfall, the monsoon’s progress might not be as smooth.

It is expected to hit the Kerala coast on June 5, almost a four-day delay from its scheduled arrival of June 1. The onset of the monsoon over Kerala signals its arrival over most of India.

“Once the monsoon reaches Andaman, it should progress quickly. This year, it might get hampered,” a senior official said. The India Meteorological Department (IMD)’s prediction of the June 5 landfall in Kerala is with a model error of plus or minus four days.

IMD had also said there was a 60 per cent chance of the El Niño weather phenomenon, which causes low rain.

Even a slight delay in monsoon might not augur well, as IMD expects rains to be slightly below normal this year. It had earlier forecast rain to be 95 per cent of the long-period average (LPA, an average of the past 50 years), which is 89 cm. Monsoon rainfall that is 96-104 per cent of the LPA is considered normal.

In the recent past, 2002, 2004 and 2009 were drought years for this reason. The four-month southwest monsoon season provides almost 70 per cent of the rain India gets in a year. The rain is not only crucial for the 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 the gross domestic product, the monsoon has a cascading impact on the rural economy, as almost 68 per cent of India’s population lives in villages. Less than normal rain could also put added pressure on the price of food commodities, particularly of oil seeds, 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. The 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 (Eastern Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Vidharbha, Marathwada, central Maharashtra, Konkan and Goa, north interior Karnataka and Telangana) could experience weak monsoon conditions this year.

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