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The India Meteorological Department (IMD) on Tuesday said that monsoon rains this year will be more than predicted by it in April at 103% of the benchmark long period average (LPA) with an 81% chance of the rainfall being either “normal” or above. The rains will also be well distributed spatially across the four broad regions and most parts of the country, the agency said.

The revised forecast augurs well for the summer (kharif) crops. If the prediction comes true, higher supplies of agricultural commodities could help ease the elevated food inflation over the next few months and boost exports of rice and several other items.

In its first April forecast, the IMD had predicted that the quantum rainfall during the four-month monsoon season (June-September) at 99% of LPA. Both forecasts have a model error of +/- 4%.

If the forecast holds good, India will receive normal monsoon rainfall for the fourth year in a row.

Key kharif crops are paddy, moong, arhar, soyabean and coarse cereals. About half the the country’s crop area is still rain-fed. Importantly, rainfalls over the monsoon core zone comprising rain-fed regions are seen to be ‘above normal’ or more than 106% of LPA.

Normal rainfall during monsoon months also helps boost soil moisture, which is beneficial for the rabi (winter) crops such as wheat, chana, mustard and coarse cereals.

“Current scientific parameters for assessing monsoon rains are more favourable than those in April,” Mrutyunjay Mohapatra, director general, IMD, said, citing the reason for upgradation of monsoon forecast.

On the IMD’s declaration of onset of monsoon over the Kerala coast on Sunday, he said that more than 70% of the weather stations in the state reported adequate rainfall besides the depth of westerly winds was adequate. Private weather forecaster Skymet on Monday alleged that IMD declared monsoon onset prematurely.

“Conditions are favourable for further advance of Southwest monsoon into some more parts of the central Arabian Sea, some more parts of Karnataka, some parts of Konkan & Goa, some more parts of Tamil Nadu, remaining parts of southwest Bay of Bengal, northeastern states and sub-Himalayan West Bengal and Sikkim during the next two-three days,” according to an IMD statement.

With the exception of some parts of east, central, northeast and south peninsula region where rainfall would be below normal range, all other areas will at least get normal rainfall.

IMD also said that La Nina conditions, which help moisture available over the Indian subcontinent, are likely to continue during monsoon months.

In its forecast for June, the Met department has predicted a ‘normal rainfall in the range of 92-108% of LPA.

Though India’s agriculture activities still depend a lot on the monsoon rainfall, increased irrigation facilities, improved farming practices and rising crop productivity are making the link between monsoon rains and farm output increasingly weak.

India’s foodgrains output stood at a record 310.74 million tonne (MT) in the 2021-22 (July-June) crop year. It is predicted to be a new high of 314 MT in 2021-22 as per the third advance estimates released by the ministry of agriculture.

Higher foodgrains output ensures adequate availability in the market and curbs the possibility of a spike in prices of commodities.

“Along with giving a boost to kharif crop production, the normal monsoon would brighten India’s prospects in agricultural commodities exports,” PK Joshi, former director (South Asia), International Food Policy Research Institute, told FE.

Meanwhile, the average water level in 140 major reservoirs in the country at present is up by 8% on year, the Central Water Commission stated last week. The water level is also 36% higher than the average of the last 10 years.

According to Mohapatra, there is a 36% probability of ‘normal’ rainfall in the coming season with 14% chances of a ‘below normal’ rainfall and 5% for deficient rains. There is a 26% probability of ‘above normal’ rains and a 19% probability of ‘excess’ rainfall.

Cumulative rainfall between 96% and 104% of the LPA is considered ‘normal’. The LPA has now been revised to 87 centimetres, the average June-September rainfall during 1971-2020 from 88.1 cm earlier.

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Author: Howard Caldwell