This year's best news so far has just arrived. After two consecutive droughts, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) on Tuesday said the monsoon this year is expected to be “above normal.” It forecast monsoon at 106 per cent of the Long Period Average (LPA). This is the first time since 1999 that department has made an “above normal” prediction.
In its first seasonal forecast for 2016, IMD said rains, a lifeline for millions of farmers across the country, would also be distributed fairly, a factor which is as critical as total rainfall.
In fact, director general of IMD, L S Rathore said there could be a possibility of excess rainfall in some parts, but its prediction is difficult as of now. Advance preparation is being planned to tackle such a situation.
Monsoon is considered normal if rain during the June to September season is 96-104 per cent of the LPA. LPA is average seasonal rainfall over the country in the past 50 years, starting 1951, and it is estimated to be 89 centimetres. The forecast is with model error of five per cent.
The good news has come mainly because the dreaded El Nino weather phenomenon that caused the back-to-back droughts of 2014 and 2015 is showing signs of waning by the time India’s southwest monsoon gathers steam around July and August.
“We expect rainfall in all four months from June to September to be more than normal, with it gathering steam during the second half of the season,” Rathore told reporters. He said there is a chance of rainfall in the northeast and parts of Tamil Nadu and Rayalaseema being below normal, but given the quantum of rainfall in these parts is more than other areas, the impact would not be much.
Rathore said the latest forecast of monsoon mission coupled with climate model indicates that El Nino conditions would weaken to moderate to weak levels during the first half of the monsoon season, that is in the months of June and July and thereafter neutral conditions would prevail.
The Indian Ocean Diapole (IOD) another critical factor that impacts the monsoon is also expected to turn positive during the second half of the 2016 season. The third factor that is in favour of the monsoon is that snow formation in the Himalayas has also been encouraging.
“The climate is also hotter than usual, which bodes well for a good southwest monsoon,” said D S pai, deputy director general, climatology, IMD.On Monday, private weather forecasting agency Skymet had predicted that monsoon would be "above normal" in 2016 at 105 per cent of LPA.
The Pune-based Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology, in a forecast based on February data, had said there was a 54 per cent chance of the June-September precipitation being 10 mm per day, which is above normal. Skymet predicted the 2009 drought correctly, but its 2015 southwest monsoon forecast was off the mark.
Agriculture and allied activities are expected to grow 1.1 per cent in 2015-16 against a contraction by 0.2 per cent in the previous year. Higher farm sector growth would push up India's economic growth, officially pegged at 7-7.75 per cent in the current financial year against 7.6 per cent expected for 2015-16.
Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh welcomed the forecast. He said, "According to IMD forecast, definitely agriculture production will be better in 2016-17." He was speaking on the sidelines of a national kharif conference here.
"We had deficient monsoon last two years. There was 12 per cent deficient rains in 2014-15. And the following year, there was 14 per cent deficiency. But we were well prepared."
Meanwhile, Aditi Nayar, senior economist, ICRA, said: "The forecast comes as a relief, with two consecutive sub-par monsoons having parched groundwater and drained reservoirs. However, concerns regarding temporal distribution persist. If precipitation is skewed to the later half of the monsoon season, it may be somewhat counter-productive for standing crops, unless sowing is delayed."
Confederation of Indian Industry's director general, Chandrajit Banerjee, said a good monsoon could take economic growth to eight per cent. "The prediction would be a great mood changer for industry, as revival of rural demand leads to a turn in investment cycle," he said.