Private weather forecaster Skymet on Sunday predicted a ‘normal’ southwest monsoon in 2021, quantitatively between 100-104% of the benchmark long period average (LPA), potentially increasing the prospect of bumper foodgrains output for the sixth consecutive crop year (July-June) in 2021-22. However, unless the demand side issues are not addressed, prices of most of the crops might continue to be depressed, adversely affecting farmers’ income.
India received ‘above-normal’ monsoon rains during last two years (see chart).
“This could be one of the ‘normal’ monsoon years making a sound start and ending within the upper half of normal range. Initial readings are indicative of some risk attached to few pockets,” Skymet said in a statement on Sunday. There is sufficient cooling in the Pacific Ocean now and La Niña conditions are at the peak. The Sea Surface Temperatures (SSTs) are likely to rise soon and the probability of continued La Niña will fall. This will reduce to about 50% when the monsoon arrives in India, Skymet said.
Rainfall between 96-104% of LPA of 88 cm is considered ‘normal’ and between 90-96% is ‘below normal’. Between 104-110% is termed ‘above normal’ and rainfall above 110% of LPA is ‘excess’.
A prolonged and well distributed rainfall across the country, barring a few areas of northwest region, helped India to harvest record kharif foodgrains – rice, pulses and coarse cereals while registering an all time high sowing areas under rabi crops such as wheat, mustard and gram during 2020-21 crop year. While the kharif estimate of foodgrain output is seen at 144.52 million tonne, the government is yet to release the rabi production estimate. The total sowing areas under all rabi crops was at 68.5 million hectares until January 29, up 3% from the year-ago period.
“Normal monsoon is a necessary condition for good kharif crop. Therefore, such forecasts are important. Besides, as agriculture has been the driving factor this year it is imperative that the trend continues next year or else the GDP forecasts of 11% will get revised,” said Madan Sabnavis, chief economist, CARE Ratings. Though it is a good sign, it is too early to judge, he said adding, one has to wait till May to get a better view.
“El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) is wielding a spike which needs to be ascertained with the model forecast in February and March. This will get factored in our April forecast. Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD) events are typically unable to form till April, but the early indications suggest it to be neutral at the commencement of monsoon,” said Jatin Singh, managing director of Skymet Weather Services.
Last year more than normal rains during monsoon was driven mainly by La Niña, which is peaking right now, Singh said. It will decline during the ‘spring’ and turn neutral later through the monsoon season, he said. This trend of Pacific Ocean temperatures may not lead to an above normal or excess rainfall, but chances of a disfigured monsoon are also ruled out, according to Singh.
The warming of sea surface temperature in the Pacific Ocean beyond a threshold is called El Niño, which is considered an important factor to disturb the south-west monsoon and reduce precipitation. The opposite of El Niño is La Nina – when temperature in the Pacific Ocean cools — during which monsoon rainfall improves. Similarly, IOD is associated with the sea surface temperature in the Indian Ocean.