Winter crop too may be poor, admits IMD

The India Meteorological department has finally acknowledged that this year's monsoon may be the weakest in seven years, as rainfall so far has been less than half of the norm for the period, and the annual forecast has been trimmed to 87 per cent of the 'long-term average'.

The country as a whole received 27.4 mm of rain in the period, compared with an average 62.7 mm, which is 56 per cent less than the normal, IMD director S Kaur announced from New Delhi on Thursday. As many as 31 of 36 weather divisions in the country received deficient or scanty rains, he added.

The IMD has also toned down its predictions for the remaining month or so of the monsoon. It has lowered the forecast for August rain to between 85-to-90 per cent of the long-period average, from 101 percent predicted in June.

In what is worse, IMD chairman Ajit Tyagi said on Wednesday that the winter monsoon is likely to be poor as well, threatening the prospects for rabi crops like wheat and rapeseed. About 60 per cent of India's agriculture is rain-fed.

Tyagi called it "a difficult year", particularly in sugarcane areas in the northwest, soybean regions of central India and the rice and corn growing state of Andhra Pradesh.

However, soyabean regions did get useful rain on Wednesday and this is predicted to continue for the next few days, bringing some cheer to farmers and the government.