India’s monsoon rains, upon which the country relies so heavily, are expected to arrive “on time” according to the country’s Meteorological Department (IMD).
The arrival of the summer monsoon is monitored very closely in India. Agriculture accounts for 15 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), and it employs some 60 percent of the population.
Only 40 percent of available agricultural land is under irrigation, so the late arrival or, worse, the failure of the rains can have a dramatic impact on crops.
This year’s prediction is that the rains will arrive across Kerala on June 1, with a margin of uncertainty of two to three days.
Unfortunately, the IMD is expecting the monsoon rains to be “below average”. This is because of the current El Nino – a warming of the surface waters in the eastern Pacific Ocean which has an impact on weather across the globe.
The timing of the monsoon is crucial to the sowing of kharif (summer) crops, such as rice. Last year’s rains, which were more than 10 percent below expectations, resulted in lower production of grain, cotton and oilseed.
Interestingly, despite the rainfall deficit in 2014, overall grain production was only three percent below average, suggesting improvements in the country’s agricultural industry.
The agricultural year has begun badly; early spring storms which brought strong winds, heavy rain and hail, have devastated the winter wheat crop in northern India.
Farmers in Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and Haryana states, which make up the “breadbasket” of India, have been in a state of despair.
More than 30 farmers have committed suicide in Uttar Pradesh alone, so far this year as crops, including potatoes and onions, have been ruined.
Although the state government has provided some financial compensation, a good monsoon would bring cheer to farmers across India.