India’s South-West monsoon, beginning June 1 this year, is expected to be normal with 98 per cent rainfall (plus or minus five per cent) of the long period average (LPA) of 880.6 mm for the four-month period ending September, private weather forecaster Skymet has predicted. 

Monsoon is likely to make a decent start in June. But there could be an extreme variability in the monthly rainfall distribution during the second part of the monsoon. 

Rainfall for key States

Rajasthan and Gujarat, along with Nagaland, Manipur, Mizoram, and Tripura will likely risk facing deficit rain throughout the season. Kerala and North Interior Karnataka are likely to see scanty rains during July-August. 

Fortunately, Punjab, Haryana, and Uttar Pradesh, key agricultural States, and rainfed areas of Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh will experience above-normal rainfall. 

The first half of the season is expected to fare better than the second half, Skymet said. India’s official weather agency India Meteorological Department (IMD) is expected to come out with its monsoon forecast later this month.

Shrinking La Nina

The South-West monsoon accounts for nearly 75 per cent of the annual rainfall in the country. The monsoon is crucial for Indian agriculture, particularly for kharif or summer sowing with rice, most coarse cereals, pulses, oilseeds, cotton, jute, fruits and vegetables depending on it.  

According to Yogesh Patil, CEO, Skymet, the last two monsoon seasons have been driven by back-to-back La Nina events. “Earlier, La Nina had started shrinking sharply in winters, but its fallback has been stalled on account of the strengthening of trade winds,” he said.

Though La Nina is past its peak, the cooling of the Pacific Ocean, an impact of the weather phenomenon, is likely to sustain just before the onset of the South-West monsoon.

Patil has ruled out the occurrence of El Nino, which tends to cause drought in India and affects monsoon and agriculture.  

Riding out ENSO

“However, the pulsating behaviour of the monsoon is expected to transpire abrupt and intense rains, interspersed by abnormally long dry spells,” he said.

The monsoon will have to ride out ENSO — neutral conditions — while battling resistance from IOD, especially during the second half of the season. This possibly can lead to extreme variability in the monthly rainfall distribution and, thus, impact the second half. 

 According to Skymet, monsoon probabilities for JJAS — mean rainfall over all-India region from different models — indicate nil chance of excess (more than 110 per cent of LPA) and 10 per cent chance of above-normal seasonal rainfall (105-110 per cent of the LPA).

There is a 65 per cent chance of normal seasonal rainfall (96-104 per cent of the LPA), 25 per cent chance of below-normal seasonal rainfall (90-95 per cent of the LPA), and no chance of drought or less than 90 per cent rain of the LPA. 

Month-wise, Skymet said that June would get 107 per cent of the LPA rainfall, with 70 per cent chance of normal rains. In July, the rainfall is likely to be 100 per cent of the LPA, with 65 per cent chance of normal rainfall. 

In August, the monsoon could bring in 95 per cent of the LPA rains with 60 per cent chance of normal rainfall. In September, the rainfall is likely to be 90 per cent of LPA but with 20 per cent chance of normal rainfall and 70 per cent chance of below-normal rainfall. 

Expert view

Experts see the predictions as mixed since farmers are likely to opt for higher acreage of rice, coarse cereals, pulses, oilseeds and cotton after seeing attractive prices this year. In the case of cotton, maize and oilseeds such as soyabean, groundnut and mustard, farmers got prices higher than the minimum support price this season to June 30. 

India’s agricultural exports have made rapid strides over the last couple of years with the Russia-Ukraine conflict coming in as a boon, since New Delhi has emerged as the most competitive source for food and feed commodities. 

A good monsoon leads to bountiful production of crops, which then spurs the rural economy. A higher income in rural areas helps in improved sales of white goods, FMCG items, gold, two-wheelers, four-wheelers and tractors.