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India on track for lowest monsoon rains in eight years, says report

Weather authorities are expected to announce their September forecast on August 31

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The country is poised for its lowest monsoon rains in eight years, with the weather pattern seen crimping September precipitation after an August that is on track to be the driest in over a century, two weather department officials told Reuters on Monday.

The summer rainfall deficit could make essentials such as sugar, pulses, rice and vegetables more expensive and lift overall food inflation, which jumped in July to the highest since January 2020.

The monsoon, vital for India’s $3 trillion economy, delivers nearly 70 per cent of the rain the country needs to water crops and refill reservoirs and aquifers. Nearly half of the farmland in the world's most populous nation lacks irrigation.

“El Niño dampened rainfall in August, and it will also have a negative impact on September rainfall,” said a senior official at the India Meteorological Department (IMD). They declined to be identified since they were not authorised to brief the media. India is on course to end the June-September monsoon season with a rainfall deficit of at least 8 per cent, which would be the widest since 2015, when El Niño also curtailed precipitation, the official said.

The weather department did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Weather authorities are expected to announce their September forecast on August 31.

In its last full-season forecast, on May 26, the IMD had anticipated a rainfall deficit of 4 per cent for the season, assuming limited impact from the El Niño weather pattern.

El Niño is a warming of Pacific waters that is typically accompanied by drier conditions over the Indian subcontinent.

India is heading for its driest August in more than a century, weather department officials said earlier this month. The current monsoon has been uneven, with June rains 9 per cent below average but July rains rebounding to 13 per cent above average.

The southwest monsoon will begin withdrawing from northwestern India on time or slightly before the normal date of September 17, the other IMD official said.

The last four Septembers have seen above-average rains due to delayed withdrawal of the monsoon, he said.

“In September, northern and eastern states could experience below-normal rainfall. However, we might see a revival in rainfall in the southern peninsula,” the second official said. September rainfall is key for winter-sown crops such as wheat, rapeseed and chickpeas.

“Soil moisture level has gone down because of scanty rainfall in August. We need good rainfall in September, otherwise planting of winter crops would be affected,” said a Mumbai-based dealer with a global trading house.


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First Published: Aug 28 2023 | 10:31 PM IST

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