India’s monsoon, which accounts for four-fifths of the nation’s annual rainfall, will be stagnant for three days, the state weather office said, delaying its progress towards the main cotton and sugar cane growing areas.
Rains may return by June 6-7, D Sivananda Pai, a director at India Meteorological Department (IMD), said. The advance of the monsoon, which hit the southern Kerala state a week before schedule this year, has stalled after the tropical cyclone Aila lashed the country’s coasts on May 25.
Timely rains help boost yields of crops including rice and corn that are sowed after the onset of the monsoon. Lower sugar cane output this year turned India into a net importer of the sweetener for the first time since the 2005-2006 season. Global prices have surged 59 per cent in the past year.
“Early rains would have helped planting and replenished groundwater levels,” Amol Tilak, an analyst at Kotak Commodity Services Ltd, said in Mumbai. “What matters now is the spatial distribution and intensity of the rains when they come.”
Rains covered the southern states of Kerala and Tamil Nadu, parts of Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh and some parts of the eastern states of Orissa, West Bengal and Sikkim by May 25, the IMD said. The monsoon was meant to move next to Maharashtra, the biggest cane-producing state and the second in terms of cotton.
“Monsoon conditions remain weak even in Kerala, where it reached a week early,” the weather bureau’s Pai said from Pune.
Rains may not reach Mumbai by the usual June 10, said Pai, holding up the much-needed respite to the city’s 14 million people facing sultry heat and a water shortage.
Rains this season may be 96 per cent of the 50-year average, the weather office said April 17.
Still, the odds of El Nino weather in 2009 are now likely to be greater than 50 per cent, more than double the normal risk in any year, raising the chance of drought in Australia and parts of Asia, Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology said on Wednesday.
“We will be looking at a significant reduction in agricultural production if El Nino conditions develop and affect monsoon rainfall,” said Sangeetha Saranathan, an analyst with India Infoline Ltd, a Mumbai brokerage.
El Nino weather conditions occur about every 4-7 years and shift weather patterns around the world. It emerges first in Australia and can take months to develop.
“It’s a bit too early to talk about the likelihood of El Nino affecting monsoon rains,” the weather bureau’s Pai said. “We are still hoping for neutral weather conditions.”