Global Agriculture

India to face driest august over a century; El Niño to impact rainfall, crop yields

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24 August 2023, China: India is expected to face its driest August in over a century due to limited rainfall, influenced in part by the El Niño weather pattern, reported Reuters on Friday citing two India Meteorological Department (IMD) officials. Rainfall, which is expected to be the lowest since 1901 when the records began, could harm summer crop yields, leading to price increases and higher food inflation, the report noted. Adding that the monsoon, vital for the country’s economy, contributes about 70 per cent of the necessary rain for agriculture and water reserves.

“The monsoon is not reviving as we had expected. We are going to end the month with a significant deficit in the southern, western, and central parts,” one IMD official told Reuters.

As per the official, India is set to receive an average of under 180 mm (7 inches) of rainfall this month, based on current and anticipated precipitation. In the first 17 days of August, the country experienced just 90.7 mm (3.6 inches) of rainfall, nearly 40 per cent below the normal average of 254.9 mm (10 inches) for the entire month.

The report also noted that the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) is expected to reveal the final August rainfall figures and September’s forecast on either August 31 or September 1. Earlier, projections had indicated an anticipated rainfall deficit of up to 8 per cent for August. The lowest recorded August rainfall occurred in 2005, measuring 191.2 mm (7.5 inches), as per the report.

However, another official said that the Monsoon rainfall is expected to improve over the next two weeks in the northeast and some central regions. Although dry conditions in northwestern and southern states are likely to persist, he added.

“Normally, we experience a dry spell of five to seven days in August. However, this year the dry spell has been unusually prolonged in southern India. The El Niño weather pattern has begun to impact the Indian monsoon,” the news agency quoted the official saying.

El Nino, a warming of waters that usually stifles rainfall over the Indian subcontinent, has emerged in the tropical Pacific for the first time in seven years.

The monsoon pattern has been erratic, with June rainfall falling 10 per cent below average, while July saw a rebound with 13 per cent above average rains, the report said. Adding that as nearly half of India’s agriculture relies on monsoon irrigation, this inconsistency is crucial. Farmers commence planting crops like rice, corn, cotton, soybeans, sugarcane, and peanuts from June 1, marking the start of the monsoon in Kerala.

The prolonged dry spell has resulted in critically low soil moisture levels, potentially hindering crop growth, the report said.

Also Read: SWAL launches new product Sperto for Soybean and Cotton in India

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