Friday, July 31, 2009
Himachal Pradesh Thursday decided to request the central government for help in the face of drought-like conditions following the lowest monsoon rainfall of the past 20 years.
'The entire hill state is passing through drought-like conditions. All the 12 districts have experienced deficient rainfall from October 2008 to July this year,' an official statement said.
The state cabinet convened a special meeting and decided to request the central government to provide special grants under the drought relief measures.
Shimla's meteorological office director Manmohan Singh told IANS: 'The overall monsoon situation is still precarious. Large parts continue to be deficit. The deficiency in the cumulative rainfall from June 1 till July 23 was 51 percent in 10 districts, except Kinnaur and Sirmaur.
'This is the lowest monsoon rainfall in the state in the past 20 years. It is alarming too as more than 80 percent of the horticulture and agricultural activities are rain-fed,' the weather official said.
* Weekly rains deficient to scanty in 19 out of 36 zones
* June 1-July 29 rainfall 19 pct below normal (Adds details and background)
- India's monsoon rains were 18 percent below normal in the week to July 29, the weather office said on Thursday, renewing fears of deficient crops after rainfall had been above normal for the previous two weeks.
Rains in the past week were below normal in the southern states of Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh, where corn is grown, while in Uttar Pradesh, the leading cane producer, rains were scant in the eastern part but normal in its western districts.
Total rainfall in the country since the beginning of June was 19 percent below average, pulled down by the driest June in 83 years, data from the India Meteorological Department showed.
The June-September rains are the main source of irrigation for Indian farms and are crucial for Asia's third-largest economy.
The weather department said all 36 weather zones received rains during the week, but the weekly rainfall was deficient to scanty in 19 zones.
The data showed rainfall was 1 percent above normal in India's central region, the main soybean producing belt, while the rains over cane and paddy growing north west region were still 32.5 percent below normal.
Source:: Reuters India
Shortfall: Rainfall in July, the key monsoon month, was close to its 50-yr average of 27cm, IMD says.Rupak De Chowdhuri/Reuters
Better rainfall in the latter half of July was not sufficient to bridge the rainfall deficit, implying that agricultural sowing, especially for rice, would not pick up. Any shortfall in foodgrain production could put further pressure on food prices.
“July has seen typical drought conditions,” said Madhavan Rajeevan, former director of forecasting with the India Meteorological Department (IMD). “The next week is unlikely to see improved activity, and by then sowing would have pretty much drawn to a close. By September, the effects of El Nino would be evident. So in a sense, the best is far behind us.” El Nino is a weather phenomenon characterized by a warming of the eastern equatorial Pacific Ocean waters and can disrupt normal monsoon patterns.
Rainfall during July, India’s most important monsoon month, was close to its 50-year average of 27cm, the country’s official forecaster said on Thursday. IMD, in the last week of June, had predicted July rainfall for the country to be around 24cm. “We got excess rain in July and we are still optimistic that August should fall within our prediction of 101% of its monthly average,” said Ajith Tyagi, director of IMD.
India’s below-normal monsoon has caused a significant decline in the area under foodgrain cultivation, a trend that, if it lasts, could trigger a rise in food prices. Food price inflation based on the Wholesale Price Index for the week ended 18 July was 11.7%, while the overall inflation rate continued to contract at 1.54%.
Agriculture minister Sharad Pawar had told the Rajya Sabha last Friday that the area sown under rice in the year as on 17 July fell to 11.46 million ha, from 14.52 million ha in 2008, a fall of 21%.
Farmers have begun substituting foodgrain with cash crops, which require less water. Overall, the area under the summer kharif crop cultivation contracted by 8%.
Experts warn that this is among the first signs of the negative impact of the monsoon rainfall’s failure on the country’s agricultural gross domestic product, but say a conclusive picture will emerge only by January.
The June-September monsoon accounts for nearly 80% of the annual rainfall and is vital for the economy, being the main source of water for agriculture, which accounts for around 17% of India’s economy.
The current year’s monsoon is considered to be crucial for the economy as buoyant rural consumption has been a key driver of growth amid an economic downturn. While the country has sufficient food stocks to tide over any crisis this year, the rise in food prices that will follow a poor monsoon and, consequently a poor harvest, could wreak havoc on the economy.
A report by credit ratings firm Moody’s expressed concern that a poor monsoon may slow India’s economic recovery. “The monsoon problem is unlikely to be strong enough to derail India’s economic recovery, but it could drag on the pace. India’s rural population accounts for a large share of total consumption... Therefore, a sizeable slowdown in rural spending will limit overall consumption growth,” the research arm of Moody’s said in its latest report.