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India is likely to get normal southwest monsoon rains this year, private weather forecaster Skymet stated on Monday, while forecasting the rainfall during the upcoming season at 98% of the benchmark 50-year average, with an error margin of +/-5%.

The forecaster saw a 65% chance that the country would get normal rainfall in the June-September period with no chances of drought.

If the forecast is correct, the country will have normal precipitation from the annual phenomenon for the fourth year in a row.

Rainfall between 96% and 104% of Long Period Average (LPA) of 88 centimetre is considered ‘normal’.

State-run India Meteorological Department will announce its annual monsoon forecast later this month.

Though India’s agricultural activities depend significantly on monsoon rainfall, increased irrigation facilities (45% of cultivable land is irrigated), improved farming practices and rising crop productivity seem to be making the link between the two increasingly weak (see chart).

In its preliminary  guidance issued in February, Skymet had indicated ‘normal’ monsoon rains in the upcoming season,  providing enough time for the farmers to prepare for kharif crops such as paddy, pulses, oilseeds.

India’s foodgrains output has risen from 297.5 million tonne (MT) in the 2019-20 (July-June) crop year to 316 MT in 2021-22 season as per the second advance estimates released by the ministry of agriculture last week.

Higher foodgrain output ensures adequate availability in the market and curbs the possibility of spike in prices of commodities. An increase in production doesn’t necessarily result in higher income for farmers, given India’s complex agriculture marketing system. Also, implementation of the government’s support price mechanism is uneven across regions and crops.

According to Yogesh Patil, CEO, Skymet, “The last 2 monsoon seasons have been driven by back-to-back La Nina events. Earlier, La Nina had started shrinking sharply in winters, but its fallback has been stalled on account of the strengthening of trade winds. Though passed its peak, La Nina cooling of the Pacific Ocean is likely to prevail till, short of the onset of southwest monsoon. Therefore, the occurrence of El Nino, which normally corrupts the monsoon is ruled out. However, pulsating behaviour of the monsoon is expected to transpire abrupt and intense rains, interspersed by abnormally long dry spells”.

Skymet sees just 10% chance of ‘excess’ rainfall (greater than 110% of LPA) in the upcoming monsoon season, 65% chance of normal (96 to 104%), 25% chance of below normal (90 to 95%) and nil chances of drought (less than 90%).

The rainfall could be 107% of LPA in June, 100% of LPA in July, 95% of LPA in August and 90% of LPA in September, said the agency.  

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Author: Howard Caldwell