India's southwest monsoon, the lifeline of millions of farmers across the country, might lose its intensity next month, says The Japan Agency for Marine Earth Science and Technology (Jamstec). July is a crucial period for sowing of kharif crops and the one in which the country is supposed to get the largest part of the four-month monsoon showers. Officials say Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar is believed to have informed Maharashtra chief minister Prithviraj Chavan about the possible monsoon break and told him to prepare remedial measures; the state is already suffering from one of its worst droughts in 40 years. July is supposed to get around 28 centimetres or 31 per cent of the total rainfall during the four-month southwest monsoon. Jamstec says the Indian summer monsoon is expected to be below normal because of a negative Indian Ocean Dipole (an irregular oscillation of sea-surface temperatures in which the western part becomes alternately warmer and then colder than the eastern part of the ocean). It adds that countervailing factors might bring down the negative impact to some extent. The said Dipole is believed to have a negative impact on the smooth progress of the southwest monsoon in India. So far, however, this monsoon has been satisfactory. It arrived over Kerala around last Saturday, almost two days ahead of its expected arrival date, and has been smoothly moving upward.
Rain has covered almost all parts of Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka and is now stationed around southern Maharashtra. "Till now, progress of the southwest monsoon has been rather satisfactory," D S Pai, director of long-range forecasts in the India Meteorological Department, told Business Standard. He said the IMD would issue its official regionwise and monthwise forecasts in about 10 days. Skymet, a private weather forecast agency, has said the overall rainfall in the country is expected to be normal during June-September, at 102 per cent of the Long Period Average. However, it adds the rains are expected to be severely affected in north India in July. Experts believe below-par monsoon in July or even in June could do serious damage to the kharif crop, as the bulk of sowing takes place during these two months. The most important crops sown during the kharif season are paddy, oilseeds, pulses, sugarcane and cotton. The monsoon rains also provide moisture for the next, rabi, sowing season. "The biggest impact in such an eventuality would be on paddy, sown mostly in July," a leading agriculture expert said. India's foodgrain production in the 2012 kharif season dropped by 2.3 per cent to 128.2 million tonnes because of a sudden break in rainfall during the monsoon season.