Cyclone Vayu mars monsoon progress, sparks concerns over kharif crop

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With southwest monsoon hitting Kerala seven days behind the usual onset date, 82% of the country’s geographical area has seen deficient/no rainfall till Tuesday.

This, coupled with the cyclone Vayu hampering monsoon’s progress — IMD says it will lose momentum only by June 14 — has heightened the concerns over a likely drop in kharif-sowing area.

The agriculture ministry has asked state governments to prepare for any eventuality in case of an ‘aberrant monsoon’ and hold state-level meetings in this regard by June 15. “Till the cyclonic storm is weakened, there will not be any progress of monsoon. However the coastal area will receive rains because of the cyclone. Till monsoon reaches the central region, it is difficult to predict when it will hit the north-western region (which is facing severe heatwave),” DS Pai, head of IMD’s long-range forecast division, told FE.

According to sources, all major crop producing states like Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, West Bengal, Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Punjab and Haryana have either witnessed deficiency/large deficiency in rainfall during June 1-11 period. “A deep depression over the Arabian Sea which brewed over the past two days has intensified into a cyclonic storm and is likely to hit the Gujarat coast on June 13 morning,” the IMD said on Tuesday.

“We have already issued two advisories to states since April 25 on the preparedness for less rainfall. But we are confident that the forecast of the India Meteorological Department of a normal monsoon rainfall this year will hold true,” said an agriculture ministry official.

The states have been asked to adhere to the local contingency plans (made for 648 districts separately) which prescribe what crops, which varieties are to be sown in a particular period, the official added.

The Centre has been holding drought management monitoring meeting with states on a weekly basis over video conferencing, he added.

Overall, the country has received rains 46% lower than normal since June 1 as monsoon hit Kerala coast on June 8. IMD has predicted rainfall over the country as a whole for the 2019 southwest monsoon season (June to September) to be ‘normal’ at 96% of the long period average (LPA). Rainfall between 96% and 104% of the LPA (89 cm) is considered ‘normal’ monsoon. Private forecaster Skymet has predicted the rainfall to be 93% (with an error margin of +/-5%) of LPA. In the last few years, the actual monsoon rainfalls were lower than predicted by IMD. Last two years saw below-normal monsoon.

Though it is very initial days of sowing, still the lower acreage in rice and pulses needs to be monitored if the government has to achieve the record 147.9 million tonne kharif foodgrain production target for 2019-20 crop year (July-June). The kharif production of foodgrains was an all time high of 142.75 million tonne in 2018-19.

The crop acreage data show that areas under all crops were down at 72.28 lakh hectare as of June 7 from 73.11 lakh hectare in the year-ago period.

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