Indian Queen Basmati Rice by Bharat Industrial Enterprises limited
Indian Queen Basmati Rice by Bharat Industrial Enterprises limited

The El Nino weather pattern is unlikely to harm India’s monsoon, indicating a timely arrival of crop-nourishing rains this season. Monsoon rains, the life-blood for India’s farm-dependent $2 trillion economy, hits the southern tip of Kerala state by around June 1 and retreats from the western state of Rajasthan by September each year. This time round India is likely to emerge unscathed from as it is expected to set in only during the latter part of the four-month monsoon season. “We are not worried about El Nino at the moment because this weather pattern is likely to emerge only after July,” K. J. Ramesh, Director General of the India Meteorological Department, told in an interview. The emergence of El Nino after July does not either indicate a weak start or deficient rains, as this weather pattern is only one of the many variables influencing the south-west monsoon, Ramesh said.

El Niño, a warming of ocean surface temperatures in the eastern and central Pacific that typically occurs every few years, faded in 2016 and was linked to crop damage, fires and flash floods. India received average monsoon rainfall last year, not surplus as previously expected despite forecasts of La Nina, advocating limited impact of both El Nino and La Nina on India’s monsoon. Typically less damaging than El Niño, La Niña is characterized by unusually cold ocean temperatures in the equatorial Pacific Ocean and tends to occur unpredictably every two to seven years. Severe occurrences have been linked to floods and droughts. India defines average, or normal, rainfall as between 96 percent and 104 percent of a 50-year average of 89 cm for the entire four-month season. The monsoon, which delivers 70 percent of India’s annual rainfall, is critical for the country’s 263 million farmers and their rice and other crops because nearly half of its farmland lacks irrigation. Before receiving average rains in 2016, India suffered back-to-back drought years for only the fourth time in over a century, hurting incomes and driving some farmers to suicide.

A U.S. government weather forecaster earlier this month said La Nina conditions had disappeared and projected the possibility of El Niño developing later this year. Forecasters in Japan and Australia also see a 40-50 chance of the El Nino weather pattern later this year. A weak El Nino, forecast to develop across Asia this year, would have only slight impact on crops such as wheat, palm oil, rice and oilseeds according to Mr. Kyle Tapley, an agricultural meteorologist with U.S.-based MDA Weather Services.

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