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Monsoon arrives in Kerala, 5 days late

After playing truant for nearly a week, the southwest monsoon arrived over the Kerala coast on Friday. “The monsoon has arrived over Kerala, as all conditions which are required for onset has been fulfilled,” B P Yadav, Director of India Meteorological Department (IMD), told Business Standard.

Other officials said the impact of the El Niño weather phenomenon is not expected to be in the first month of the four-month season.

The monsoon, which usually hits the Kerala coast around June 1. It was forecast to have been delayed by four days due to El Niño. The met office said it would now move forward towards Tamil Nadu and could also hit some parts of North-East India.

The timely arrival of rain is crucial, as it is an important signal to farmers. Almost 70 per cent of India’s total annual precipitation comes during the southwest monsoon season, which starts from June and ends in September.

“From here on, the progress of monsoon will be keenly watched, as frequent disruptions in its movement could harm the sowing of kharif crops,” a leading crop expert said.

Long dry spells followed by sudden and continuous rain and uneven distribution, hallmark of an El Niño weather condition, is harmful for the growth of crops such as paddy, oilseeds and cotton.

Rains are vital to rejuvenate an economy battling its longest economic slowdown since the 1980s and cool inflation that has averaged nearly 10 per cent for the past two years.

The farm sector accounts for 14 per cent of India’s nearly $ 2 trillion economy, with two-thirds of its 1.2 billion populations in rural areas. Half of India’s farmland still lacks access to irrigation.

The country plans to expand irrigation coverage by at least a tenth by 2017 to cut its dependence on the seasonal rains.

The IMD, in its first official forecast for the 2014 southwest monsoon, had said rain this year could be below normal due to the impact of El Niño. Even private weather forecasting company Skymet had said rain would not be very good this year.

A worried department of agriculture has prepared contingency plans for 500 districts. It has also dispatched advisories to various states and held meetings with state officials to understand their preparedness.

Sowing operations in rice, pulses and cotton have started in many growing areas of northwest and southern India, taking advantage of pre-monsoon showers.

Farmers have taken note of the agriculture ministry’s advisory to sow summer crops early this year, as the second half of the four-month rainy season could witness drier weather due to the El Niño weather pattern.

The Australian Bureau of Meteorology in its latest update said there is high chance of emergence of El Niño weather this year.

It has the potential to cause severe droughts in Asia Pacific, including India.

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