Farmers across India who are already hit by unseasonal rains this year have to brace up as a report on Monday said that the country is headed towards the driest monsoon season for the third time in three decades.
Renewing concerns over poor harvest and spike in food inflation, the monsoon rainfall deficit so far has widened to 16 percent, according to the India Meteorological Department (IMD). Overall, the deficit may come in at 12-14 percent during the monsoon season (June-Sep) this year, LS Rathore, director general of IMD, told The Economic Times.
If the deficit is in line with the projection, then it would be the worst monsoon rainfall in the past three decades, apart from droughts in 2002 and 2009. "With 83 percent monsoon season over, the deficit in rainfall is unlikely to change significantly, and even if the remaining weeks have normal rainfall, the deficit is likely to be above 10 percent," said Barclays Capital in a recent note.
After starting on a promising note in June, the rainfall weakened since late July due to El Nino effect, a phenomenon that is often linked to drought conditions.
Data shows 10 out of 13 droughts that occurred since 1950 have had an El Nino connection. The occurrence of El Nino in 2009 coincided with the worst drought in four decades in India.
Showing a stark divergence regionally, the excess monsoon rainfall has so far been witnessed in only 6 percent area of the country. While 50 percent of the country received normal rainfall, 44 percent area recorded a deficit rainfall.
IMD forecasts east, northeast, southern States and Maharashtra to see rainfall in the remaining days in the seasons while expecting dry conditions in most of the northern and western regions. The deficit in northern States such as Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and Haryana remains at 40 percent this year.
So far this month, the average rainfall has been 5.5mm compared to the normal daily rainfall of 6.7 mm recorded in September, said a meteorologist. "Even if the rains are heavy in the last phase, we will not be able to narrow the deficit," he said.
In May, AccuWeather, a US-based meteorological service provider, forecasted that the country would face a "significant" drought situation. It said that "very active" typhoons over the Pacific are likely to result in weak monsoon rainfall.