Private forecasters expecting weak monsoon rains in the key crop-planting months
Private forecasters in India and abroad are expecting weak monsoon rains in the key crop-planting months of July and August.
The monsoon made a delayed and shaky start last month and was 29% below average in June.
The first month of the June-September season was drier only in the drought year of 2009, when it was 47% in deficit and before that in 1966 when it fell 33% short. The weather office maintains that all will be well, but independent forecasts are ominous although they stop short of predicting a drought this year.
US-based forecaster Accu-Weather says only some parts of India will see normal rainfall. “Overall rains in India are likely to be below normal,” it said.
Rajasthan, Gujarat likely to be worst-affected
"The rainfall is likely to be normal in southern parts and along the western coast. Northeastern and eastern states will also get ample rainfall. But there may be deficient rains in central, northern and western India. Rajasthan and Gujarat are likely to be the worst-affected, getting 70-80% of the normal rainfall," AccuWeather Agricultural Meteorologist Dale Mohler told ET by telephone.
This will hurt output of oilseeds, coarse grains and guar.
Another US-based weather centre, the Center for Ocean-Land-Atmosphere (COLA) Studies, said rainfall has been anomalously low across India other than the northeast, and near-term forecasts do not indicate a quick return to normal rains.
"This may be related to the growing warm sea surface temperature anomaly in the eastern tropical Pacific, which may continue to grow large and persistent enough to be labeled an El Nino event-warm SST in the eastern tropical Pacific is historically related to lower-than-average monsoon rainfall in India," said Jim Kinter, director, COLA.
However, the monsoon's advance continues to be about two weeks behind normal and the total rainfall deficit up to July 1 has widened to 31%.
Private weather forecaster Telvent DTN, in its report, has said monsoon continues to look fairly weak.
"It is also running well behind normal on its push towards the northwest. El Nino in the eastern Pacific would suggest a below-normal rainfall pattern for India this season. Computer models suggest little rain for key soyabean (west Madhya Pradesh) and groundnut areas (Gujarat/Tamil Nadu) of India during at least the next five days," the report said.
India-based private weather services provider Skymet also predicts weak rains. "There are 60% chances of a below-normal monsoon and 40% for a normal monsoon. Total rainfall during July will be around 95% of average, with Gujarat, Rajasthan, adjoining areas of west Madhya Pradesh and Haryana receiving lower-than-normal rainfall. Rest of northwest India would witness normal rains," said Skymet's founder and CEO Jatin Singh.
However, Jagadish Shukla, president, Institute of Global Environment and Society, said there is no serious cause of concern. "It's very difficult to predict long-range weather. There is fundamental lack of predictability. Our weather models are not good enough to predict mean of weekly rainfall beyond three weeks. They can have near-accuracy on projecting day-to-day precipitation up to one week," he told ET.
Shukla, a professor at George Mason University, was the founding scientist at the National Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecasting in New Delhi.
The relatively dry spell has not yet hurt agriculture significantly, but concerns are mounting as July is the most important month for sowing key crops such as soyabean, rice, cotton, cane and corn.
"If it continues to rain in eastern and northeastern states, rice output may not be an issue. But there is serious cause of concern for oilseeds such as soyabean and groundnut; and coarse cereals such as jowar, bajra and maize if monsoon doesn't progress northwards in the next one week," said RS Sharma, a senior agri-scientist at the Agricultural Policy and Research Centre.
The Australian Bureau of Meteorology, whose forecasts about El Nino are widely respected, says the adverse weather phenomenon is very likely. "All seven models surveyed indicate conditions are likely to approach," it said on its website.
Other foreign agencies such as the Japan Meteorological Agency and the US Climate Prediction Center have indicated return of the El Nino weather pattern in the second half of 2012.
The United Nations weather agency, World Meteorological Organisation (WMO), also sees increased chance of El Nino in 2012. In its previous update in May, the WMO said it foresaw an equal chance of El Nino or neutral conditions in the second half of the year.
"Now we're saying El Nino has a slight edge over neutral conditions," WMO Spokeswoman Clare Nullis said.