In a country where nearly two-thirds of agriculture depends on the rains and two-thirds of the population is dependent on agriculture, the delay in the monsoon's arrival has begun to worry the government.
A Union agriculture ministry official said they expect the monsoon to revive around June 25-26 and that the further action would be taken if doesn't happen. The prediction for the monsoon this year is 96% (plus or minus 5%) of normal rainfall.
The delay and the shortfall in rains - so far only 45% of the normal rains have arrived, according to the India Meteorological Department (IMD) - is not seen as unusual by agriculturists. But they are surprised at the rise in the price of food. "What is in the market is last season's produce. Sowing has not begun fully for this season yet and the delay is not so unusual. There will be reason to worry only if the rains do not come or are insufficient in July," pointed agriculture and food policy expert Devinder Sharma.
Weather experts have warned that if the rainfall in July doesn't make up for the June deficit, then India may be headed for drought-like conditions. Typically, June accounts for only 16 per cent of the total rainfall in India from June to September. But if there is a 25% deficit by the end of July, then rains in the second half of the season (August and September) are unlikely to make up for the shortfall.
The IMD said 28 of India's 35 meteorological subdivisions have so far received deficient (more than 20 per cent below normal) or scanty (more than 60 per cent below normal) rainfall. Hot and dry weather has persisted across most parts of India. "During the past week, no fresh surge developed either in the Bay of Bengal or in the Arabian Sea which could lead to a further advance of the monsoon," the IMD said on Friday.
Although the monsoon set over Kerala a week earlier than normal on May 23, rainfall between June 1 and June 17 was 39.5mm instead of the normal of 72.5mm. The monsoon hasn't moved beyond the Kerala coast for two weeks now.
The IMD said the monsoon is expected to resume its progress around June 25. But it will be some time before it hits central India and even longer to arrive in northern India.
Status: The monsoon is late and what little rain has fallen is way below normal. The monsoon isnot expected for another week at least.
Impact: The non-arrival of the monsoon has jeopardised paddy cultivation and the government has advised farmers to delay cultivation by at least a fortnight. "But it is too early to worry about a drop in the production of foodgrains," said HS Sidhu, director of the state agriculture department.
Status: The monsoon set in a week early in southern Karnataka and on time in northern part of the state. But rainfall so far is less than normal.
Impact: Normal rainfall is expected in Karnataka and thus normal crop production. "According to the 16-year monsoon cycle, Karnataka is in the positive side and the annual rainfall is likely to be around 1140 mm,'' said MB Rajegowda, professor of agro-meteorology at the University of Agricultural Sciences, Bangalore.
Status: The monsoon arrived in the last week of May but its impact is yet to be felt with occasional and scattered rains witnessed in pockets of the state.
Impact: Experts do not foresee any major disaster so far. Kharif crops might be affected if the monsoons are delayed indefinitely. "The impact will be if the monsoon does not arrive by the last week of June," said Animesh Mitra, a former professor of Kalyani Agriculture University, Nadia district.
Status: The forecast for the monsoon's arrival is the last week of June. The Anand Agricultural University has said rainfall will be below normal.
Impact: Authorities say there is no cause for worry yet, but experts say farmers may have to change their crops this year. "Crops with shallow roots will benefit from drizzles and less rain. Farmers should start sowing only by June 29 when heavy rainfall is forecast," said AAU vice chancellor MC Varshneya.
Status: The monsoon arrives by June 18 and will be late by a week.
Impact: Scientists at the UP Agriculture Research Council believe the late monsoon will not affect rice plantation. But Brijesh Shukla, an agriculture expert, said past records show that late monsoons have hurt rice plantation.
Status: The western and northern parts received rains but the rest of the state has not.
Impact: The pre-monsoon showers provided relief to farmers, who are now worried about increase in squalls and dust storms, which is damaging their kharif crop.
Status: Cyclone Aila is being blamed for the monsoon's non-arrival.
Impact: Farmers are praying to the rain gods while the government remains hopeful. "If the monsoon breaks within a week, all we need is one good spell of rains," said state agriculture secretary UP Singh.