Photographer: SANJAY KANOJIA/AFP/Getty Images

India's Monsoon Seen Stronger Than Usual as El Nino Weakens

  • Seasonal showers will probably be 105% of average: Skymet
  • Back-to-back rainfall deficit had hit country's crops

India’s monsoon is set to be stronger than usual this year, following the first back-to-back rain shortfall in three decades which hurt crops.

Showers during the four-month rainy season starting in June will probably be 105 percent of the average of about 89 centimeters (35 inches) as the El Nino weather phenomenon that brings dry weather weakens, Skymet Weather Services Pvt. said on its website on Monday. The forecast has a margin of error of 4 percent.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government is counting on a normal monsoon to sustain economic growth and contain food costs after the lowest rainfall since 2009 hurt rice, corn, sugar-cane and oilseed crops last year. About half of India’s 1.3 billion population is employed in agriculture, which accounts for almost 20 percent of the nation’s $2 trillion economy.

“The main factor that had hampered the last two monsoons was El Nino, which is on a declining trend,” G.P. Sharma, vice president at Skymet, a New Delhi-based private forecaster, said by phone on Monday. “It’s not playing the spoilsport this time and that’s the main factor we are looking for.”

Crop Dependency

The monsoon accounts for about 80 percent of India’s total rain, affecting both summer and winter sowing, and waters more than half of all farmland. Rainfall was 14 percent below a 50-year average in 2015, following a 12 percent shortfall in 2014, data from the India Meteorological Department show.

Rainfall in June will probably be 90 percent of the norm, while showers in July will probably be 105 percent of the average, Skymet said. Precipitation will likely be 108 percent in August and 115 percent in September.

Weather Risk Management Services Pvt. said on April 1 that a weakening El Nino means this year’s monsoon will be stronger than usual, with well-distributed rains over the country. Falling sea-surface temperatures over the equatorial Pacific Ocean region also signal that rains will be normal, K.K. Singh, head of the agro meteorological division of the India Meteorological Department, said on April 4.

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