India is currently grappling with the prospect of experiencing its lowest monsoon rainfall in eight years, as weather officials warn that the El Nino weather pattern is likely to diminish September’s precipitation following an August that could be the driest in over a century. This potential deficit in summer rainfall carries far-reaching implications, from increased prices of essential goods to potential economic challenges.
The El Nino phenomenon, characterized by the warming of Pacific waters, historically results in drier conditions across the Indian subcontinent. Weather experts from the India Meteorological Department (IMD) have indicated that August’s precipitation has been dampened due to El Nino, and its negative impact is anticipated to persist into September.
Monsoon rains are a lifeline for India’s $3 trillion economy, providing almost 70% of the necessary water for crops and water reservoirs. However, nearly half of the country’s agricultural land lacks irrigation, making it heavily reliant on these seasonal rains. The summer monsoon is especially crucial for replenishing water sources and sustaining agriculture.
Consequences impacting million
The consequences of deficient monsoon rains extend to the cost of living for millions of Indians. Essentials like sugar, pulses, rice, and vegetables are expected to become more expensive due to reduced crop yields, thereby contributing to overall food inflation. July had already witnessed the highest food inflation since January 2020, and a sustained deficit in rainfall could exacerbate the situation.
According to IMD officials, the current monsoon season is likely to conclude with a rainfall deficit of at least 8%, the widest since 2015 when a similar El Nino-driven phenomenon led to reduced precipitation. The situation is a stark contrast to the IMD’s initial May 26 forecast, which predicted a 4% rainfall deficit for the season under the assumption of limited El Nino impact.
Challenge to agriculture sector
The uneven distribution of rainfall this season is evident in June’s rains being 9% below average, followed by a rebound in July with rains exceeding the average by 13%. However, the inconsistency highlights the unpredictability and challenges associated with India’s annual monsoon cycle.
As the IMD prepares to announce its September forecast on August 31, concerns are mounting over the potential impact on winter-sown crops, including wheat, rapeseed, and chickpeas. Soil moisture levels have already decreased due to the scanty rainfall in August, raising worries about successful crop planting for the upcoming season.
For northern and eastern states, the forecast for below-normal rainfall in September raises the specter of further agricultural challenges. However, experts suggest the possibility of a revival in rainfall across the southern peninsula during the same period.
The monsoon’s withdrawal from northwestern India is expected to follow its usual timeline, occurring around September 17. The last four Septembers have seen above-average rains due to the delayed withdrawal of the monsoon, a pattern that experts hope could repeat this year to alleviate the current situation.
India’s battle against one of its driest monsoon seasons in recent memory highlights the critical role that weather patterns play in the country’s agriculture and economy. The implications stretch from rising food prices to potential challenges for winter crops, underscoring the importance of weather forecasting and management for the nation’s prosperity.