India’s southwest monsoon, the lifeline for millions of farmers across the country, today hit Kerala on its usual onset date. According to the India Meteorological Department (IMD), all the 14 rainfall-monitoring stations in Kerala have reported a fairly-widespread rainfall over the last 48 hours. The rains, from June to September, are vital for the 55 per cent of farmland without irrigation in India, one of the world’s largest producers and consumers of food. A good rain not only ensures adequate production of rice, sugarcane, oilseeds and pulses during the kharif season, but also leaves enough moisture in the soil to harvest a good rabi crop.
Sowing for kharif season starts around June, while that for rabi starts around October. The seven southern and western states, hit by drought last year, need rains. The IMD had predicted that monsoon would arrive in Kerala on June 3, with a model error of plus or minus four days. Last year, the monsoon hit Kerala four days after the June 1 date forecast. Though the timely arrival of monsoon augurs well for the four-month season, its impact on kharif production would largely depend on the spread and quantum of rains. Adequate rains in the season could help the rural economy and keep inflation subdued, as India’s coalition government prepares for a round of state polls this year and a national election by May 2014. The IMD, in its first forecast last month, had predicted a normal monsoon. It said rains would account for 98 per cent of the long-period average (LPA). Rains between 96 and 104 per cent of LPA are considered normal. According to the department of agriculture, sowing of some kharif crops, namely paddy and pulses, has started in some parts.