This July has been the fifth best with regard to the monsoon rains, since the start of the nineties. July saw the country receive an area-weighted rainfall of 308.2 millimetres, 6.6 per cent more than the normal long-period average (LPA) of 289.2 mm for July. There have been only four instances after 1989 where it rained more in July than this time: 2013 (310.1 mm), 2005 (334.1 mm), 2003 (316.7 mm) and 1995 (323.4 mm).
The current monsoon, unlike in 2015, had a bad start. June had only 145.4 mm average precipitation, 11.1 per cent below the LPA of 163.3 mm, leading to delayed kharif crop plantings by farmers. According to the agriculture ministry, total area sown by June-end was just 215.87 lakh hectares (lh), against the 279.27 lh covered in the same period of 2015.
But the surplus July rains have totally altered the picture. The latest data from Krishi Bhawan shows cumulative sowing as on July 29 at 799.51 lh, which is higher than the 752.29 lh for this time last year. Barring cotton and bajra, all major kharif crops have registered expansion in acreage.
Equally encouraging is the Met Department’s forecast for the second half of the southwest monsoon season: Rainfall as a whole is expected to be107 per cent of the LPA for August-September, with August alone likely to post 4 per cent surplus rains.
This is in sharp contrast to 2015, where a 16.2 per cent surplus in June was followed by rainfall deficiency that progressively got worse: -16.7 per cent in July, -21.7 per cent in August and -24.2 per cent in September. The crop farmers sowed enthusiastically in June suffered extreme moisture stress, translating into lower if not total loss of produce.
This year only, has the monsoon’s temporal spread been good, but as many as 28 out of the country’s 36 meteorological subdivisions have experienced normal to excess precipitation. Even Gujarat, which seemed headed for yet another drought, has had decent showers in the past few days.
As things stand, we are looking at a bumper agricultural year a la 2013-14.