For all the good news with regard to the southwest monsoon — normal this time, after back-to-back failures — there’s one bit of bad news that hasn’t received adequate attention. The northeast monsoon — critical to the southern peninsula, particularly Tamil Nadu — has been a disaster, with overall rainfall for the season (October-December) turning out 45.2 per cent below normal. This is the worst since the 48.3 per cent deficit recorded in 2011.
For Tamil Nadu, Kerala and southern Karnataka, the poor northeast monsoon rains come as a double whammy. Tamil Nadu, Kerala, south interior Karnataka and coastal Karnataka had already reported respective rainfall shortfalls of 19 per cent, 34 per cent, 21 per cent and 21 per cent even during the southwest monsoon (June-September). The corresponding deficits of 62 per cent, 61 per cent, 70 per cent and 63 per cent reported for the northeast season only make matters worse. Tamil Nadu, not surprisingly, has declared drought.
Extended dry weather in Tamil Nadu and southern Karnataka could have a production impact, especially in milk and sugar where supply conditions are already tightening.
There is no such problem of moisture deficiency in the main rabi belt of northern and central India. The current cold wave, triggered by widespread rain/snowfall activity over the western Himalayan region, should help the standing wheat, mustard and chana crops. While the northeast monsoon rains were bad in these regions as well – causing concerns till early this month – the fact is that the situation is far better than in 2015 and 2014. Those two years saw both the southwest and the northeast monsoon rains fail.