Met department pegs rainfall deficit at 15%

As a weak monsoon crossed the half-way mark, the shortfall in kharif acreage of rice, pulses, oilseeds and cotton continued to widen. Rice acreage registered the sharpest fall at 25 lakh hectares from 18 lakh hectares in the past week. This was because of a slowdown in paddy transplanting in West Bengal, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh.

This trend may persist with the India Meteorological Department (IMD) predicting deficient rain for the remaining period of the monsoon. On Friday, the IMD pegged the overall rain deficit for the June-September period at 15 per cent, the worst since 2009 – a drought year when the shortfall stood at 22 per cent.

The deficit has already a sparked a rally in prices of agricultural commodities and could possibly shrink the country’s economic growth. The Reserve Bank of India has scaled down growth projections to 6.5 per cent from the earlier 7.3 per cent

“The total rainfall for the June-September period is likely to be below normal, at 85 per cent of the long period average (LPA),” said L.S Rathore, Director General, IMD. LPA is the 50-year average, pegged at 89 cm.

The deficit rain forecast confirms the possibility of drought in parts of the country, which now includes even the North-Western States of Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan and Gujarat that face a 50 per cent deficiency. States such as Karnataka, Maharashtra and Rajasthan have already declared the drought-hit areas.

Since the onset of monsoon in June, the deficit has been 20 per cent. Twenty-two of the 36 meteorological subdivisions accounting for 63 per cent of the country’s total area are facing a deficit or scanty rainfall. For August and September, the shortfall is forecast at 10 per cent on the likely emergence of El Nino – a warmweather condition in the Pacific that creates drought in countries, including India.

Rathore maintained that paddy cultivation would not be affected, but said that conditions were worrisome for production of coarse cereals.

The gap in acreage for tur (arhar) and urad has largely been covered, while it has widened for moong due to poor sowing in Rajasthan. Lower sowing of groundnut in Saurashtra has hit the oilseeds acreage, though higher soyabean planting in Maharashtra has helped bridge the deficit to an extent. Poor rain in Gujarat have shrunk the cotton acreage by 7 lakh hectares, though area under the fibre crop has picked up in Andhra Pradesh.

(This article was published on August 3, 2012)
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