Govt expects normal rain despite El Nino

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Met experts meet today to finalise IMD forecast

Govt expects normal rain despite El Nino
Amid forecasts of possible emergence of El Nino, government officials on Monday said the monsoon is expected to be normal this year. “Rain may be 96 per cent of a 50-year average of 89 cm in the June-September period,” Bloo­m­b­erg quoted two government officials as saying.

The news agency said the officials had direct kno­wledge of an official rain forecast to be released later this week but didn’t name them. “The actual rainfall m­ay be 5 per cent more or less than the prediction,” they said.

The India Meteorological Department (IMD) is scheduled make the first official rain prediction for the season on April 24. Top weather forecasters from different units of IMD, Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology, Pune, Agrimet division and other scientists are meeting in Pune on Tuesday to prepare the final monsoon forecast.

When contacted, Met officials refused to either confirm or contest the Bloo­mberg report. “Please wait for the final forecast,” was all they said. They said it was unlikely that the report under preparation was leaked to the media.

El Nino is a phenomenon that leads to an unusual warming of waters in the eastern and central Pacific Ocean, which is known to cause droughts. Monsoon rain provides 70 per cent of India’s annual rainfall and irrigates 60 per cent of the farmland.

In IMD’s parlance, rainfall between 96 per cent and 104 per cent of the 50-year average of 89 cm during the entire June-September season is considered normal or average. India faced droughts due to below-average rainfall in 2009 and 2004.

Skymet, a private weather forecaster, last week said El Nino was likely to hit rainfall in India, but the country might still escape an overall drought. “Rainfall during the season is likely to be below normal at 94 per cent of the long-range average,” it said.

Monsoon rain is crucial for India, where more than 800 million rural population is directly dependent on farming. The farm sector accounts for about 15 per cent of India’s nearly $2 trillion economy, but employs over 55 per cent of the country’s workforce.

The prospects of half the country’s agricultural output, including that of rice, coarse cereals, pulses, oilseeds, sugarcane and cotton are dependent on monsoon rain.

“Monsoon rain is crucial, as 70 per cent of kharif crops are dependent on it due to inadequate alternative irrigation facilities,” Vedika Narvekar, chief manager for agri-commodities at Angel Commodities Broking told Financial Chronicle.

Besides boosting agricultural output, monsoon rain is also key to cooling down inflation, increasing consumer spend and boosting overall economic growth, she said.

“In case of a bad monsoon, food inflation number will further go out of hand,” Madan Sabnavis, an economist at Credit Analysis & Research in Mumbai, told Bloomberg.

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