Monsoons deliver below-normal rain to Indian farmers

Weather forecasters agree that India’s southwest monsoon will be substandard, which could hamper development of the country’s kharif pulse crops.

The India Meteorological Department believes the 2019 monsoon will deliver 96 percent of the long-term average rainfall. The monsoon period runs between June and September.

Rainfall is expected to be well distributed throughout the country, which can be as important as the quantity of moisture.

The monsoon rains nurture India’s kharif crops, which are seeded in June and July and include pigeon peas and other pulses.

Some forecasters think El Nino is going to have a bigger negative impact on India’s monsoons than the IMD forecasts.

Skymet Weather, India’s largest weather monitoring company, believes the monsoon will be 93 percent of normal.

“The onset phase is likely to be delayed and weak as well, which is surely going to cast a shadow,” the firm said in a news release.

It believes eastern and central India have the highest risk of being rain deficient, especially during the first half of the monsoon season. A lot of pulses are grown in central India.

“The onset month of June is going to have a very sluggish start and deficit rains are likely to spill into July,” said Skymet.

A positive Indian Ocean Dipole may “absorb some of the El Nino blues” in the second half of the monsoon season.

Skymet forecasts 77 percent of normal rainfall in June and 91 percent in July. August and September should be near normal.

Chris Hyde, meteorologist with Maxar, also expects a drier bias. His map of India for the June through September period is almost entirely grey, which means 90 to 110 percent of the long-term average precipitation.

“It’s a bit boring,” he said.

The outlook all depends on El Nino. If it strengthens, it will be toward the low end of that scale.

“If it maintains itself, which we feel it will, you’ll certainly be right around normal because we’re talking about a weak El Nino here,” said Hyde.

He doubted the monsoon precipitation will end up at the high end of the scale. If anything it will be normal to slightly below normal.

Pre-monsoon rains in March, April and May have been 24 percent below normal, which doesn’t bode well for what follows, according to Skymet. It has been the worst pre-monsoon season in six years.

That hasn’t helped the country’s expanding drought. The Indian Institute of Technology Gandhinagar estimated that 43 percent of the country is experiencing some degree of drought.

Thirty percent of the country is experiencing severe, extreme or exceptional drought, including large areas of western and southern India where many pulses are grown.

The Indian government has set a target of 10.1 million tonnes of kharif pulse production.

That “appears ambitious,” global agribusiness and commodities market specialist G. Chandrashekhar said in the June edition of Saskatchewan Pulse Growers’ Pulse Market Report.

“It is unlikely to be achieved given the weather risk ahead and the fact that growers may not be as enthusiastic to plant pulses in record acreage as in the last two years,” he said.

A poor kharif crop could force the Indian government to review its pulse import tariffs and quotas.

“Such a review can possibly happen in September or October when the kharif harvest size will crystallize,” said Chandrashekhar.

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