The mon­soon’s un­even spread


While 210 dis­tricts had deficit rains of 20% or more, another 117 re­ceived ex­cess rains of 20% or more

The June-to-septem­ber south-west mon­soon, which was fore­cast to be nor­mal this year, has so far seen a short­fall of just 3%, as com­pared to the nor­mal or 50-year av­er­age, but the over­all deficit is mask­ing its un­even ge­o­graph­i­cal spread, shows data from the In­dia Me­te­o­ro­log­i­cal Depart­ment (IMD).

Till 30 Au­gust, the data shows that 210 dis­tricts—or a third of the 630 dis­tricts in In­dia for which IMD re­ceives rain­fall data daily—have seen deficit rains of 20% or more, while another 117 dis­tricts have re­ceived ex­cess rains of 20% or more, com­pared to nor­mal.

Rain­fall is con­sid­ered to be nor­mal when it lies be­tween -19% to +19% of the 50-year av­er­age. By that pa­ram­e­ter, about 48% of In­dia’s dis­tricts have re­ceived nor­mal rains so far. In early June, IMD had fore­cast that the mon­soon, which ir­ri­gates over half of In­dia’s crop area, will likely be at 98% of the 50-year av­er­age, with a model er­ror of 4% on ei­ther side.

The rain­fall deficit dis­tricts are spread across the coun­try, from Haryana and Ut­tar Pradesh in the north to Kar­nataka and Ker­ala in the south, putting crops like pulses, oilseeds, cot­ton and coarse grains un­der mois­ture stress.

The data shows that 46 out of 72 dis­tricts in Ut­tar Pradesh, 15 out of 21 dis­tricts in Haryana, 26 out of 51 dis­tricts in Mad­hya Pradesh, 12 out of 30 dis­tricts in Kar­nataka and seven out of 14 dis­tricts in Ker­ala, have seen sub-par rains.

Fur­ther, states like Ra­jasthan and Ma­ha­rash­tra have seen both ex­cess and deficit rains in dif­fer­ent parts of the state. While 11 out of 33 dis­tricts in Ra­jasthan have seen above nor­mal rains, 14 dis­tricts in the state wit­nessed sub-par rains. In Ma­ha­rash­tra, while 10 out of 36 dis­tricts wit­nessed deficit rains, nine dis­tricts have seen ex­cess rains.

Rains have not only been un­evenly spread ge­o­graph­i­cally; the month-wise dis­tri­bu­tion too is skewed. While June and July saw 4% and 1.7% rains above nor­mal, re­spec­tively, for the en­tire coun­try, Au­gust has so far seen 14% less rains com­pared to nor­mal.

Rain­fall data fur­ther shows that cen­tral In­dia re­ceived 5% and 11% above nor­mal rains in June and July, re­spec­tively, but saw a deficit of 28% in Au­gust.

The south­ern penin­su­lar re­gion, on the other hand, saw a 8% sur­plus in June, a 36% deficit in July and 16% more rains com­pared to the nor­mal dur­ing Au­gust.

The mon­soon season has seen floods in parts of at least five states—bi­har, West Ben­gal, As­sam, Gu­jarat, and Ra­jasthan—even as more than a third of In­dia’s dis­tricts have re­ceived deficit rains.

This im­plies In­dia’s crop pro­duc­tion, from grains and pulses to oilseeds, is un­likely to match the record highs seen in 2016-17, achieved on the back of a nor­mal mon­soon in 2016.

Data from the agri­cul­ture min­istry showed that un­til 25 Au­gust, plant­ing of rain-fed kharif crops was only marginally lower year-on-year (2017-18 over 2016-17), but plant­ings of oilseeds and cer­tain va­ri­eties of pulses was sig­nif­i­cantly lower, likely due to lower prices for this crops dur­ing the last kharif season.

The data shows that sow­ing of arhar (pi­geon peas) is lower by 19% com­pared to last year, while that of ground­nut and soy­bean is 11% and 7% lower, re­spec­tively. The data also shows that mov­ing away from these crops, farm­ers have planted more of cot­ton and cane this year. Over­all In­dia’s food pro­duc­tion is un­likely to be af­fected due to the re­gional vari­a­tion in mon­soon ex­cept for cer­tain crops like oilseeds, pulses and cot­ton, said Si­raj Hus­sain, for­mer agri­cul­ture sec­re­tary and a vis­it­ing fel­low at the Delhi-based In­dian Coun­cil for Re­search on In­ter­na­tional Eco­nomic Re­la­tions.

“How­ever, deficit rains in states like Pun­jab, Haryana and west­ern Ut­tar Pradesh is ex­tremely wor­ri­some as it means farm­ers will be spend­ing more to draw ground wa­ter which is al­ready de­plet­ing at an alarm­ing rate,” Hus­sain added.


The rain­fall deficit dis­tricts are spread across the coun­try, from Haryana and Ut­tar Pradesh in the north to Kar­nataka and Ker­ala in the south.

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