The southwest monsoon — touch wood — has been pretty good so far, though it’s still very early days.
The country as a whole has received 80.7 millimetres (mm) of area-weighted rainfall during June 1-17, which is about 10.9 per cent above the normal long period average (LPA) of 72.8 mm for this period.
Moreover, 54 per cent of India’s area has recorded ‘excess’ precipitation (i.e. 120 per cent or more of a particular subdivision’s LPA), while being ‘normal’ (within 80-120 per cent of LPA) in another 23 per cent. Only in the balance 23 per cent area have rains been below 80 per cent of LPA, which translates into ‘deficient’ or ‘scanty’.
The most heartening trend is the monsoon being either in excess or normal in the country’s most drought-prone belt from Rajasthan, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh to the contiguous stretch across Vidarbha, Marathwada, North-Interior Karnataka, Rayalaseema and Telangana. These regions produce a lot of pulses and oilseeds — crops with significant import-dependency and also most susceptible to inflation — apart from coarse grains like jowar and bajra. The good initial burst of monsoon rains will certainly give a boost to their plantings.
The rains have also been good in Chhattisgarh and Odisha, while yet to pick up in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal. These states — and also Punjab and Haryana — largely grow rice during the kharif season, much of it under assured irrigation cover. That, coupled with the abundant rice stocks in government warehouses, would make a monsoon failure in the north-west or eastern states not as significant a threat compared to poor rains in western and central India.
But right now, we are just at the start of the four-month monsoon season, which registers a cumulative country-wide LPA rainfall of 886.9 mm: 163.5 mm in June, 288.9 mm in July, 261 mm in August and 173.5 mm in September.
The 80.7 mm precipitation received as on Wednesday represents just over 9 per cent of the normal LPA for the entire season.
From an agricultural perspective, it is the rains in July and August — during the crucial vegetative and early reproductive growth stages of the crop — that really matter.
The Met Department, in its forecast update issued on June 2, has predicted overall rainfall for the country at only 92 per cent of the LPA for July and 90 per cent in August. Whether that would prove right or (hopefully) wrong, we will know in the weeks to come.