The overall rain deficit is also showing in water storage levels. Last year, too, the monsoon went into a longish break in August. A normal monsoon in 2016 had led to record foodgrain production.
India received below-normal monsoon this year, with the season ending on a 5.2% deficit on Saturday. While 50% of the country’s districts have had normal rains, more than a third — 215 districts — are left with deficient rainfall, which could impact the kharif crop to an extent.
While the first half (June-July) posted a 2.5% rain surplus, August and September had a combined deficit of 12.5%. The Met department attributes the monsoon’s failure in these months to a combination of factors that came into play together.
“A number of storms originated in the northwest Pacific in August, which reduced rain activity over the Indian subcontinent. Conditions in the Indian Ocean too did not boost rainfall during this period,” said D Sivananda Pai, head of long range forecasting at IMD. In terms of India’s four regions, the northwest had the maximum rain deficit of 10%, followed by central with 6%, and east and northeast with 4%. Rains were normal in south India.
The government’s first advance estimate of this year’s kharif crop reflects the monsoon’s below-par performance, with the estimated production pegged 2.8% below last year’s. A normal monsoon in 2016 had led to record foodgrain production.
The comparison with last year, when overall rains were better by just over two percentage points, is interesting. While 10 out of the 36 subdivisions in the country had deficient rains in 2016 — as compared to six this year — there were fewer districts with large rain shortfall. The number of districts with deficient or very deficient rain stood at 199 last year, while this year the number is 215.
Last year, too, the monsoon went into a longish break in August. However, crucially, the break came later and lasted for a shorter time. This year, the break in the monsoon — when rainfall dips sharply in central India — began around July 26 and continued till the third week of August, a period crucial for kharif sowing.
“There were too many lulls in the monsoon during the second half. Also, the distribution of rainfall was rather poor, with some areas getting too much rain, which led to floods,” said Pai. On the brighter side, south India got good rains during August and September, which wiped out the deficits of the previous months.
Some of these subdivisions, such as south interior Karnataka, had seen drought last year. The northeast, too, got good spells of rain in the second half.
The overall monsoon shortfall is also showing in water storage levels. According to the Central Water Commission, 91 major reservoirs in the country were at 66% of capacity on September 28. This is just about 89% of the levels in the corresponding period last year, and 87% of the 10-year average.