Sunday, June 16, 2024

Muted monsoon, predicts Skymet | Mint

Skymet said on Monday in its first forecast for monsoon 2023 that monsoon precipitation will be 94% of the long-period average (LPA) due to the impact of the El Niño weather pattern, linked to droughts or poor rainfall in India. The forecast raises concerns over agriculture output in the country. This may drive farmers to resow crops and push up the demand for irrigation in the farming sector.

“In an El Nino year, there is zero chance of excess rainfall, while the chances for below-normal rainfall and drought are 80% and 60%, respectively. This season, it will depend on when the dry season gathers pace and how the dry season is going to be distributed within the monsoon,” said Jatin Singh, managing director of Skymet.

Graphic: Mint

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Graphic: Mint

Farmers in India cultivate kharif or summer crops, which account for about 48-50% of India’s total agriculture basket, during the June-October monsoon period. Over this period, major crops such as paddy, cotton, maize, tur, soybean and groundnut are sown. India depends heavily on monsoon rainfall for agriculture production, which offers the highest employment to people.

“If El Nino matures over April-June, the onset of southwest monsoon is seen to be delayed by about 10-15 days, resulting in resowing of kharif crops. This will also increase the demand for irrigation, putting pressure on the power divisions,” Singh said.

NITI Aayog member Ramesh Chand said he would wait for the official India Meteorological Department (IMD) forecast before commenting on monsoon’s implications on farm output. He, however, said that the country is better placed to deal with weather shocks now. “Because of the increase in irrigated areas and several other factors, our resilience to weather shocks has improved compared to similar events in the past,” Chand said.

Reserve Bank of India governor Shaktikanta Das had said last Thursday in his monetary policy statement that rabi (winter) foodgrain production is estimated to have increased by 6.2% in the financial year that ended in March, which has brightened the prospects for the agriculture sector and rural demand. The central bank expects the economy to grow at 6.5%in FY24 after a 7% expansion in the just concluded financial year.

Other experts said that things are not all that bad, even going by Skymet’s monsoon projection.

“If monsoon that is forecast at 94% of the long period average (plus or minus 5%) is spread across time and geography in a way close to normal, then it is unlikely to have a very significant impact on agricultural output. Our irrigation intensively has increased over a period of a decade or two. That reduces some vulnerability. Also, earlier kharif crop was the major component of farm output, but over the years, rabi crops have taken over,” said Devendra Kumar Pant, chief economist at India Ratings and Research (Fitch Group).

The LPA of rainfall is the precipitation recorded over a particular region for a given interval (like a month or season) average over a long period like 30 years or 50 years, according to the IMD definition.

In terms of quantum, Skymet said that precipitation in the June-September monsoon, which provides over 70% of the country’s annual rainfall, is expected to be 816.5 mm against the typical 868.8 mm. The forecast has an error margin of +/- 5%.

“If monsoon starts failing in June, panic among smallholder farmers in Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra of Central India and southern parts of the country will be created, resulting in a similar situation to Maharashtra in 2015, when people started migrating to other cities and states,” Singh said. Parts of central Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana are drought-prone and typically get affected in an El Nino year.

On the El Niño climate pattern linked to droughts in India, IMD director-general Mrutyunjay Mohapatra recently told Mint there are some spring barriers around it worldwide. Therefore, it will be early to predict its impact accurately, as good monsoons have been witnessed in some El Niño seasons.

The IMD will release its first forecast for the 2023 monsoon season on Tuesday.

Pant of India Ratings and Research also said that there were instances in the past where, due to favourable Indian Ocean Dipole (temperature difference between East and West of India), the El Nino effect has been mitigated to a certain extent for India.

“However, this is an evolving phenomenon and will be known later. Another factor that could mitigate some adverse impact on rainfall is the information services government can provide to farmers in terms of coping with the change in rain pattern, such as switching to a different crop or a shorter duration crop,” Pant said.

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