The monsoon for this year is likely to bring the normal amount of rainfall at 98% of the long period average (LPA), the India Meteorological Department said in its forecast on Friday, while adding that there could be a variation of 5% over or under the prediction.
India recorded above-average monsoon rains for two consecutive years, and a normal season this year will significantly help the agriculture sector in particular, and the economy in general, following a year when the pandemic has stressed earnings.
The summer rains – which typically set in from June 1 — are critical because nearly 60% of India’s net arable land lacks irrigation and nearly half the population depends on a farm-based livelihood. The rains also replenish 89 “nationally important reservoirs” critical for drinking and power generation.
The LPA is the average monsoon rainfall — 88 cm — recorded from 1961 to 2010. IMD considers rainfall between 96% to 104% of LPA to be in the “normal” range.
In 2020 and 2019, the monsoon was above normal at 110% and 109% of LPA. In 1996, 1997, and 1998, the monsoon was normal at 103.4%, 102.2%, and 104%.
There is a 40% probability of normal, 25% of a below-normal, 16% of above-normal, 14% of deficient, and 5% of excess monsoon rains, according to IMD’s forecast. Unlike private weather forecasting agency Skymet Weather’s assessment on Tuesday that monsoon is likely to be a “healthy normal” at 103% of the LPA, IMD’s forecast predicts the monsoon to be at the lower end of its normal LPA range.
IMD said a large part of east and northeast India including Jharkhand, Odisha, Bihar, and the north-eastern states are likely to record below normal rains this year. A part of northwest India, including Delhi, Haryana, parts of Punjab, are also likely to record below normal rains.
Over the past few years, there has been a huge divergence in monsoon rains across regions, and, even in regions receiving plentiful rain, long dry spells interspersed with intense wet ones.
“We have good news to share. After two years of above-average rain, we are likely to receive normal monsoon rain this year,” said M Rajeevan, secretary, the ministry of earth sciences.
He added La Niña conditions, which are associated in India with strong monsoon and above-average rains, and colder winters, have started weakening after starting in 2020.
“La Niña conditions are likely to prevail only till May so we will transition to ENSO [El Niño and Southern Oscillation] neutral conditions during monsoon. There is very little chance of El Niño conditions developing during monsoon months. There is a very small probability of Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD) negative conditions developing during monsoon. So, these conditions are likely to lead to a normal monsoon this year,” Rajeevan said.
“The agri sector has been quite resilient. The onus of the government now is to maintain supplies of inputs such as fertilisers and seeds,” said economist R Mani of the Tamil Nadu Agricultural University.
The farm sector, which contributes 39% to the rural economy, was able to shake off the impacts of the pandemic last year because of normal rains and ample supplies of subsidised inputs, such as fertilisers.
With inputs from Zia Haq