Amid the gloom surrounding the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic and its after-effects, there was some good news on the weather front.
India’s southwest monsoon this year is expected to be ‘normal’ at 100 per cent of the long period average (LPA), the India Metrological Department (IMD) said in its first-stage forecast for the season.
The LPA of the season rainfall over the country as a whole for the period 1961-2010 is 88 cm.
However, experts said how much a good monsoon will positively impact kharif sowing operations scheduled to begin from June will depend on how far and to what extent the Covid-19 pandemic impacts India and with it the harvesting and sowing operations.
“What will impact sowing operations this kharif season is how the pandemic pans out in the next few months. If this crisis extends, it will severely impact the availability of labour, timely sowing of crops, and availability of cash to farmers,” said Madan Sabnavis, chief economist, CARE Ratings.
He said though a ‘normal’ monsoon was good news for the farm sector, to say how much of a positive impact it would have would be somewhat premature at this juncture.
A good harvest will push up India’s agriculture growth rate in 2020-21, but if demand remains subdued, it could pull down farmers’ income and aggravate the already precarious situation in rural India which has seen below normal growth in the past few years.
The IMD has revised the monsoon onset and withdrawal dates over parts of Northwest, Central and West India, saying it could be delayed by 3-7 days in some cases and advanced by a few days in others. However, the monsoon will hit the Kerala coast as usual, around June 1.
The Met painted a fairly rosy picture of the southwest monsoon, saying there is 71 per cent probability of the rains being normal to excess, while just 29 per cent probability of it being below normal to deficient.
Moreover, the dreaded El Niño phenomenon — known to negatively impact the performance of the southwest monsoon — is not only expected to remain ‘neutral’ during the four-month monsoon season starting June, but, according to some forecasting models, might well turn into La Niña during the latter half of the four-month season.
The El Nino is defined as an increase of the Eastern Tropical Pacific’s sea surface temperature (SST) of 0.5°C from long-term average, while its reverse La Nina is defined as a decrease of SST over the same area by minus 0.5°C from long-term average.