India is on track to receive normal monsoon rain for a second straight year, with June-September rainfall expected to be 98% of the long-period average, a senior government official said Tuesday.
“There is very low probability of the seasonal rainfall to be deficient or excess,” he said.
The average rainfall over the past 50 years, or the long-period average, is 89 centimeters. The prediction has a margin of error of plus or minus 5%,the official said, but the Department has a fairly good record with its forecasts.
The quantity and geographical spread of rainfall during the monsoon season is crucial for India’s agriculture sector, which lacks irrigation facilities in more than half its farm land.
Forecasts of a good monsoon season will provide some respite to policy makers, who are struggling to keep food price inflation from spiralling out of control.
The official monsoon forecast will be released later Tuesday.
Rainfall that comes within 96%-104% of the long-term average is considered a normal monsoon season. This alone isn’t enough to guarantee a good crop, however, with the timing and spread of monsoon rains being equally important.
India produced a record food grain output of 235.9 million tons in the crop year ending June, after last year’s monsoon rainfall came in at 102% of the long-term average.
Yet inflation has remained stubbornly high in the last two years, forcing the central bank to raise interest rates and soak up liquidity in the system.
According to data released by the government Friday, India’s wholesale price index rose 8.98% in March from a year earlier, significantly quicker than February’s provisional 8.31%, driven by higher prices of manufactured products and fuel.
“It is positive news that the monsoon will be normal, but it is too early to predict any impact now as we have to see the progress of rains across India,” said Madan Sabnavis, chief economist at Care Ratings.
Monsoon rains usually enter India’s mainland through the southern state of Kerala in the first week of June, gradually progressing to cover most of central and northern India by July, before retreating in September.
The monsoon started on schedule last year but weakened after the first couple of weeks. It then gathered strength again by July, offsetting the initial deficit.
Heavy rains beyond the normal end of the season damaged some crops, particularly fruits and vegetables, contributing to the spike in inflation since late last year.
The heavier-than-usual rainfall was caused by La Nina, a weather event where surface sea temperatures across the equatorial eastern and central Pacific Ocean remain lower than normal.
La Nina is expected to prevail for another two months, but its impact is waning and it won’t have much influence on this year’s monsoon season, weather officials said.
Despite some early concerns, Japan’s March 11 earthquake and tsunami are unlikely to have an impact on the Indian monsoon season because the time gap between the two weather events was quite large, weather officials said.
The Met Department said last week it will provide monthly updates on the monsoon’s progress this year. In previous years, the Department issued its first forecast in April, followed by a mid-season update in July or August.
“There is very low probability of the seasonal rainfall to be deficient or excess,” the official said.
The average rainfall over the past 50 years, or the long-period average, is 89 centimeters. The prediction has a margin of error of plus or minus 5%, the official said.
The quantity and geographical spread of rainfall during the monsoon season is crucial for India’s agriculture sector as the country lacks irrigation facilities on more than half of its farm land.
Forecasts of a good monsoon season will provide some respite to policy makers, who are struggling to keep food price inflation from spiraling out of control.