| Three months after a delayed onset in June and despite a close and regular monitoring by experts, the verdict on Monsoon 2005 isn't exactly in black and white yet. Technically, the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) in Delhi calls 2005 a near-normal monsoon year. The economists have a split opinion, with most calling it a mixed picture that would slightly dent the agricultural output. But Mumbaikars would rather call it the year of devastating floods and rain even as Jharkhand has been declared drought-hit. The monsoon, like India, can never be a straightforward story. |
According to the data released by the Met Department late last week, of the 36 subdivisions in the country, rainfall was excess or normal in 27 and deficient in nine. "We expect this to improve in a few days with more rainfall in rain-deficient areas," says IMD Deputy Director-General H.R. Hatwar.
But near-normal macro-statistical data shows a complex subset of regional and monthly distribution patterns. June saw a delayed onset of the monsoon with rainfall 20 per cent below normal. However, July brought in cheers with near-normal rainfall across the country.
August has not been a good month, with northern India recording deficient rainfall. According to state-wise data compiled by CRISIL for August (as against the sub-divisional data done by IMD), most of the states affected by deficient rainfall are rice producing (see graphic). "Paddy output is going to be badly affected," says Subir Gokarn, chief economist, CRISIL. Only two states-Maharashtra and Arunachal Pradesh-saw excess rainfall of 20 per cent or above.
Despite the swings, economists expect two critical factors to help mitigate the monsoon impact this year. The 20 per cent deficient rainfall in June is significant but the month is not critical for agriculture, says Gokarn. In 2002 and 2004-the two recent bad years for agriculture-rainfall in June was 4 per cent above and 2 per cent below normal. "Fortunately, July, which is the critical month for crops, has been good," he says. The normal rainfall in July will help lessen the impact.
Second, it is the well-irrigated states like Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh which received deficient rainfall. "Because of this the impact (of low rainfall) will be marginal," says Anil Sharma, principal economist, ncaer. So even as economists wait for the monsoon to recede completely before calculating the impact on agriculture and the economy, what is clear right now is that even though Monsoon 2005 has not been good, it has not been bad either.