NEW DELHI (Reuters) -
Monsoon rains reached India's southern coast a few days
later than usual on Friday, offering relief to farmers
eagerly waiting for the start of the wet season that is
crucial for their summer crops.
But the slight delay in the monsoon's onset is unlikely to have a
major impact on sowing of rice, pulses and cotton that has started
in many growing areas of northwest and southern India, taking
advantage of pre-monsoon showers.
The formation of a possible El Nino weather phenomenon, which can
cause drought in South Asia, is only expected to have an impact
later in the four-month rainy season.
"We don't foresee any El Nino impact in the first month of the
monsoon season," said B.P. Yadav, head of the National Weather
Forecasting Centre at the India Meteorological Department in New
Last month, the IMD forecast a patchy monsoon season with a high
chance of El Nino. [ID:nL3N0NG3LO] Weather officials on Friday
confirmed the monsoon's onset - a decision that takes into account
rainfall measured at weather stations in the southern state of
Kerala and westerly wind speeds.
Rainfall was around 40 percent below average across India in the
first week of the season. Progress northwards of the annual rains is
expected to be slow and they are unlikely to cover half the nation
by the first half of June.
Farmers have heeded the advice issued by the newly elected
government to sow crops early this year to take advantage of
pre-monsoon showers. They were also advised to use short duration
seeds of cotton, pulses, corn and soybeans.
FIVE DAYS LATE
In 2013 the monsoon hit Kerala on June 1, two days ahead of the
official forecast and in line with the long-term average. The season
brought above-average rainfall across the country, resulting in a
record grain harvest. Rains are vital to rejuvenate an economy
battling its longest economic slowdown since the 1980s and to cool
inflation that has averaged nearly 10 percent for the past two
years. The farm sector accounts for 14 percent of India's nearly $2
trillion economy, with two-thirds of its 1.2 billion population
living in rural areas. Half of India's farmland still lacks access
to irrigation. The country plans to expand irrigation coverage by at
least a tenth by 2017 to cut its dependence on
the seasonal rains. Poor rains could hit summer crops such as rice,
soybean, corn and cotton, raising food prices and pressuring
economic growth that has nearly halved to below 5 percent in the
past two years. India's weather office had forecast the monsoon
would arrive over Kerala on June 5, give or take four days. The
chance of dry spells in this year's monsoon is 40-45 percent
compared to the usual 33 percent, said Andrew Colman, senior climate
scientist at the UK Met Office. Southern India, mainly parts of
rice-growing areas of Andhra Pradesh, and cane areas of Karnataka
and Tamil Nadu, received plenty of rains in May, providing a cushion
against any delay in progress of the wind-borne monsoon rains
towards the mainland. Farm Commissioner J.S. Sandhu said contingency
plans have been in place for around 500 drought-prone districts, if
the monsoon fails to arrive on time.
The healthy showers prior to the monsoon season raised water levels
in the country's reservoirs to nearly half-way above normal, he
Usually, the monsoon covers half of India by mid-June, and engulfs
its entire landmass by mid-July.