India Misses Monsoon Rainfall Forecast as La Nina Proves Elusive

  • Rain totals 97 percent, below 106 percent predicted by agency
  • Country still set for record grain harvest on timely downpours

India, which gets more than 70 percent of its rain during the annual monsoon, missed a forecast for above-normal showers as a La Nina weather pattern failed to set in.

Rainfall totaled 862 millimeters, or 97 percent of the average between 1951 and 2000, data from the India Meteorological Department showed Friday. That’s less than the 106 percent predicted by the state forecaster with a margin of error of 4 percent. The agency defines normal rain as plus or minus 4 percent of the average, making this year the first normal monsoon since 2013.

The U.S. this month dropped its La Nina watch and reduced the odds of the event that can cause wet weather in Indonesia, India and Thailand. The pattern’s absence during the June-to-September monsoon caused weak rainfall in the later part of the season. Still, timely and well-distributed rain is expected to boost food-grain production to a record this year.

Monsoon rainfall was normal to excess over 85 percent of India, while it was deficient in the rest of the regions.

The four-month rainy season affects both summer and winter crop sowing in India and directly 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 meteorological department show.

Record Harvest

The government has set a record food-grain harvest target of 270.1 million metric tons for the crop year that began on July 1, compared with 252.2 million tons a year earlier. Production of grains including rice and corn planted during the monsoon will total 135.03 million tons, Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh said on Sept. 22. An increase in water level in reservoirs will boost winter-sown crops such as wheat and mustard, according to S.K. Pattanayak, agriculture secretary.

India’s 91 main reservoirs held 117.2 billion cubic meters of water as of Sept. 29, up 22% from 96.45 billion cubic meters a year earlier, according to the Central Water Commission.

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