Kolkata / Bloomberg
The monsoon in India, which accounts for more than 70 percent of the annual rainfall, will arrive a week later this year, prolonging a drinking water shortage and delaying planting of crops from rice to cotton and sugar cane.
Southern Kerala state will start receiving the seasonal rains from June 7, the India Meteorological Department said in a statement. The normal onset date for monsoon is June 1 and the forecast has a margin of error of four days, it said. The Andaman and Nicobar islands will get rains from May 17, the state forecaster said.
India is counting on normal rainfall this year to control food prices and provide succor to hundreds of millions of people grappling with one of the nation’s worst droughts since independence from British rule in 1947, following two years of poor rain. The monsoon waters about half of the nation’s crop land, where more than 800 million people live in villages and depend on farming. Agriculture accounts for roughly 18 percent of the nation’s $2 trillion gross domestic product.
The June-September rainfall is seen at 106 percent of a 50-year average, according to the weather bureau. Precipitation was 14 percent below average last year, preceded by a 12 percent shortfall in 2014, data from the bureau show. The onset over Kerala signals the arrival of monsoon over the Indian subcontinent and represents the beginning of rainy season over the region.
“There is a lag in seasonal transition from pre-monsoon to monsoon and we are observing it,” D.S. Pai, head of the long-range forecasting division at the weather office, said by phone from Pune on Sunday.
The Reserve Bank of India lowered its key interest rate for the first time in six months on April 5 and Governor Raghuram Rajan has said he would watch the performance of the monsoon to look for more room to ease.
Food prices are a key determinant in whether Rajan will achieve his goal of keeping inflation within 5 percent by March 2017. Data on Thursday showed consumer prices rose 5.39 percent in April.