New Delhi: After a week’s delay, India’s monsoon, which accounts for 70% of the country’s rainfall, officially arrived South Kerala’s coast on Saturday.
Monsoons are the lifeblood of India’s $2.5 trillion economy, spurring farm output and boosting rural spending on items ranging from gold to cars, motorcycles and refrigerators.
The India Meteorological Department (IMD) said in April that India, where half of the farmland lacks irrigation, would likely receive average monsoon rains this year.
However, the delay has had a big impact on farmers and millions of Indians this year, as an ongoing heat wave has sent temperatures soaring across the country and dried up reservoirs.
Water is typically scarce in the summer months, but the situation has been particularly grim this year in western and southern states which received below average rainfall in the 2018 monsoon season.
Depleting reservoirs have even forced some municipalities in places like Chennai, Mumbai and Hyderabad to cut supplies to ensure water lasts until the arrival of the monsoons.
Key cotton growing western states of Maharashtra and Gujarat, which account for 27 of the 91 reservoirs in the country, had storage shortages of 64% and 27% respectively as on Thursday, compared with the 10-year average.
The tea and rubber growing state of Kerala, known for its plentiful rainfall, had a shortage of 12%, according to the Central Water Commission.
The monsoon usually covers half of the country in the first 15 days. The rains reach central India’s soybean areas by the third week of June and western cotton-growing areas by the first week of July.
After a good wet spell, sowing of summer-sown crops like rice, corn, cane, cotton and soybeans gets off to a strong start, boosting crop yields and output which in turn raises rural incomes and usually lifts consumer spending in India, as agriculture remains the major contributor to India’s GDP.
The weather bureau declares the arrival of monsoon rains only after measures including consistency of rainfall over a defined geography, intensity, cloudiness and wind speed are met.
It defines average rainfall as between 96 % and 104% of a 50-year average of 89 cm (35 inches) for the entire four-month season beginning June.
On Thursday IMD said the monsoon’s arrival in Delhi is likely to be delayed only by a couple of days from its usual onset on June 29 while Skymet claims it will be a week’s delay.
The city and Northwest India is likely to receive normal monsoon.
The rains in June are likely impacted by El-Nino, associated with the heating of Pacific waters, although a weak one. However, reports say the delay in monsoon has no correlation to the overall amount of rainfall.