A man rows his boat in the tributary waters of Vembanad Lake under pre-monsoon clouds, near Kochi, June 7, 2019. Photo: Reuters/Sivaram V/File Photo
New Delhi/Mumbai: India is likely to receive an average amount of rain in the 2021 monsoon, the state-run weather office said on Friday, raising expectations of higher farm and economic growth in Asia’s third-biggest economy, which is reeling from a surge in coronavirus cases.
Monsoon rainfall is expected to total 98% of the long-term average, M. Rajeevan, secretary at the Ministry of Earth Sciences, told a virtual news conference.
The state-run India Meteorological Department (IMD) defines average, or normal, rainfall as between 96% and 104% of a 50-year average of 88 cm for the entire four-month season beginning in June.
In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, agriculture has been a bright spot in India’s economy, and a good monsoon would help the sector and the countryside, said Radhika Rao, economist at DBS Bank in Singapore.
The monsoon, the lifeline of the country’s $2.9 trillion economy, delivers nearly 70% of rains that India needs to water farms and recharge reservoirs and aquifers.
Nearly half of India’s farmland, without any irrigation cover, depends on annual June-September rains to grow crops such as rice, corn, cane, cotton and soybeans.
Farming accounts for nearly 15% of India’s economy but sustains more than half of India’s 1.3 billion people.
Monsoon rains lash the southern tip of Kerala state around June 1 and retreat by September.
“Most models show that La Nina conditions will convert to neutral conditions, and there is a very low chance of El Niño’s development during the monsoon season,” Rajeevan said.
A strong El Niño, marked by a warming of the sea surface on the Pacific Ocean, can cause severe drought in Australia, Southeast Asia and India.
A strong El Niño triggered back-to-back droughts in 2014 and 2015.
La Niña is an abnormal cooling of ocean temperatures in the eastern and central Pacific, triggering above average rains.
(Reuters – additional reporting by Swati Bhat in Mumbai; editing by Christian Schmollinger, William Maclean)