Early monsoon arrival an all-time record

Ajay Modi        Last Updated: June 18, 2013  | 10:06 IST

Ajay Modi
Ajay Modi
Amid the economic gloom, the early arrival of the monsoon is a ray of hope. It is indeed the earliest monsoon arrival since rainfall in India began being recorded and rains across the country have so far been well above normal so far.  This year's early arrival breaks the monsoon's 1961 record when it had entire country covered by June 21. This has brightened the prospects of a good kharif crop. Of course, there has been some negative impact too, such as in Uttarakhand, with cloud bursts and landslides due to heavy rains.

A delighted D S Pai, Director (Long-range forecast) at the Indian Meteorological Department said, "Records are meant to be broken. This year the monsoon rain has been 48 per cent more than normal and almost double last year's corresponding data. The whole country was covered as of yesterday (June 16)".

The southwest monsoon is responsible for the primary rainy season in India, which lasts from June to September. Most of the country, except Southern peninsula, Jammu and Kashmir and Assam, receives more than 75 per cent of its annual rainfall during this period. The monsoon rainfall during this period has a direct bearing on the crop yield across the country. Agriculture and allied sectors such as forestry, logging and fishing account for 14 per cent of GDP, but employs more than 50 per cent of the workforce.

The quality of the monsoon will be a vital determinant of food inflation as it is critical for sowing of paddy, oilseeds, pulses, onions, etc. Cotton is also dependant on the monsoon and so is the fate of the textile industry.  A good kharif crop is expected to ease food inflation. The whole»sale price index-based food inflation stood at 8.25 per cent in May 2013, up significantly from 6.08 per cent in April. Retail food inflation too remains high - the consumer price index-based food and beverage inflation for May stood at 10.65 per cent.

Jeet Singh Sandu, Agriculture Commissioner at the union agriculture ministry said the situation was positive and there is no cause to worry. "Kharif crop sowing was delayed last year as monsoon had covered the country only by July. This time the farmer will get ample time to prepare the land and sow early," he said. Besides ensuring timely sowing, an early monsoon also gives crops adequate time to ripen.

On the impact of a significantly higher rainfall on crops, Sandu said it is too early to say that it will have a negative impact. "All crops suffer damage due to excess rains if water remains standing in the field for more than a day. But it is early as sowing has only started and will continue till July." He said that overall no negative impact is anticipated and the only concern area was Uttarakhand where cloud bursts have accompanied the heavy rains.

The impact of an errant monsoon is felt across industries such as FMCG, automobiles, cement and steel. A severe drought can make a difference of two to five per cent to the country's GDP. Despite agriculture's declining contribution to the GDP, the monsoon still matters a great deal because of its indirect impact on the purchasing power of a large section of the population that lives on agriculture.

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