Monsoon rains cover India, but kharif sowing yet to pick up pace

Even as monsoon rains, the lifeblood of India’s agriculture-dependent economy, covered the entire country on Friday, more than a fortnight ahead of the normal schedule, sowing of kharif crops is yet to pick up pace.

The revival of monsoon rains in the grain bowl of northwest and central regions should help speed up the sowing of summer crops such as rice, corn, soybeans, oilseeds and cotton.

“This year monsoon rains covered the entire country on June 29, more than a fortnight ahead of the normal date of July 15 when it covers the Indian landmass,” D Sivananda Pai, India’s chief monsoon forecaster at India meteorological department (IMD), told Financial Chronicle.

He said monsoon rains had also covered the entire country on June 16 and June 26 in 2013 and 2015, respectively.

IMD on Sunday said the monsoon trough has shifted northwards. It is likely to shift further northwards towards the foothills of the Himalayas and remain there during the next three-four days.

Consequently, rainfall activity is very likely to occur at most places with isolated heavy to very heavy rains over northern parts of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Punjab, Haryana, Chandigarh, the western Himalayan region and northeastern states on July 1, 2, 3 and 4.

The June-September monsoon delivers about 70 per cent of India’s annual rainfall and is the lifeblood of its $2.5 trillion economy, spurring farm output and boosting rural spending on items ranging from gold to cars, motorcycles and refrigerators.

“Though monsoon rains have covered the entire country, sowing of kharif crops requires sufficient rainfall for germination of crops and their healthy growth,” Nabansu Chattopadhyay, head of the agricultural meteorology division at IMD told Financial Chronicle.

He said the spatial and temporal distribution of rains play an important role for kharif crops, which accounts for about 50 per cent of farm production in the country.

There were no rains from June 12 to June 22, and they picked up momentum from June 23, Chattopadhyay said, adding rains spatial distribution in the country has to be seen.

“There are two criteria for sowing: about 70 mm rainfall and rainfall sustainability for the crops not to suffer,” he pointed out.

Monsoon rainfall was 5 per cent lower than normal so far in June, but in the East and the Northeast India the rainfall deficit was as high as 27 per cent, data compiled by the state-run IMD showed. Both northern India and southern peninsula received 16 per cent more rainfall each in the month of June. India, where only half of the farmland is irrigated, is likely to get 97 per cent or normal rainfall of a long-term average in the June-September monsoon season, IMD forecast last month.

Michael Gonsalves