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Met forecasts below normal monsoon at 93%Met forecasts below normal monsoon at 93%
TNN | Apr 23, 2015, 03.36AM IST
The IMD forecast spells further bad news for the farm sector which has had poor back-to-back kharif and rabi seasons.
NEW DELHI: Raising the spectre of a second successive year of deficient rains, the India Meteorological Department has predicted below normal rainfall for the upcoming monsoon season with a 33% probability of rains being less than 90%, commonly referred to as a drought.
"The monsoon seasonal rainfall is likely to be 93% of the long-period average with a model error of plus or minus 5%," said Union earth science minister Harsh Vardhan on Wednesday, announcing IMD's first long-range forecast for the monsoon.
The IMD forecast spells further bad news for the farm sector which has had poor back-to-back kharif and rabi seasons. Harsh Vardhan said there was no reason to panic, as government agencies were prepared to take all necessary measures to deal with the below normal rainfall situation.
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As per IMD's first stage forecast, there is a 35% probability of a 'below normal' monsoon with rains in the 90% to 96% range. The odds on normal rains (96%-104%) were placed at 28%, while there was a worrying 33% chance that rains could slip below the 90% mark.
Ministry of earth science secretary Shailesh Nayak said initial predictions indicate poor rains in the agriculturally important northwest India as well as in central parts of the country, as compared to south India.
"The main factor behind the prediction of below-par rains is the high chance that El Nino, which has already developed, would continue through the Indian summer," D Sivananda Pai, IMD's lead monsoon forecaster, told TOI.
As in the past few years, IMD also released an experimental forecast using its more modern coupled dynamical model, which predicts the all India monsoon rainfall to be 91% of average.
In April last year, facing a similar situation of a growing El Nino, IMD had predicted 'below normal' monsoon with 95% rainfall. The monsoon eventually produced 88% rains in the June-September, making 2014 a drought year (IMD prefers to call below 90% rains as 'deficient' monsoon).
As usual, IMD will issue an update to its forecast in June, when region-wise and monthly predictions will be released. Though preliminary indications have hinted that the monsoon would hit India by last week of May, the Met department will make its formal prediction about the onset in mid-May.
Harsh Vardhan said the forecast would be shared with the PMO, cabinet secretary, agriculture ministry, related departments and state governments so that authorities can proactively take measures for any eventuality.
IMD chief L S Rathore said unseasonal rains in past months have no bearing on the monsoon. He said the reservoirs across the country have normal storage of water.
Reacting to the forecast, agriculture scientist M S Swaminathan said the government must prepare emergency plans. "Forewarned is forearmed. We should start preparing contingency plans to suit different rainfall probabilities such as seed banks, rainwater harvesting and efficient use procedures," he tweeted.
Agrarian distress appears to have risen in the past few months, coinciding with destruction of crops due to freak rains. Another poor crop season would add to the crisis.
Last year, the government dealt with the deficient rainfall situation by extending weather-related information and inputs to farmers during June-September and restricted the overall kharif crop loss to 6.5%. Back-to-back deficient rains may make this task difficult.
Despite many districts being declared drought-hit last year, India could achieve an overal foodgrain production of 257.07 million tonnes which is only about 3% lower than the record output achieved during 2013-14.
If the situation worsens this year, it will impact the output further. In that scenario, the government will have to depend on high-cost imports to maintain its buffer stock, burdening the exchequer and risking inflationary pressure on the economy. Monsoon is the single biggest factor in the performance of kharif crops, including rice, sugar and oilseeds, which account for nearly half of India's food output.
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