India banks on La Nina for normal monsoon

12 April 2016

After two consecutive years of deficient rainfall, this year's monsoon is expected to be normal and would boost farm production, agriculture secretary Shobhana K Pattanayak said on Monday.

''El Nino condition is declining. It is expected that La Nina condition will take over, and will perhaps favour a good monsoon this year,'' Pattanayak said, addressing a national conference on the kharif campaign for 2016-17 in Delhi. He said that the India Meteorological Department would release its first monsoon prediction for the year today.

Pattanayak also asked state governments to make advance preparations for sowing of kharif (summer) crops like rice and pulses by making adequate availability of seeds, fertilisers, and other agro-inputs. ''Less-than-normal rainfall in the last two years has left farmers and resources at stress. There is high moisture stress in the soil,'' he noted.

The Economic Survey 2015-16 recently had stated that the El Nino weather pattern, which was mainly responsible for the deficient monsoon for the last two consecutive years, is unlikely to repeat itself this year and that there was a probability of a normal monsoon rainfall.

The survey said the monsoon was not going to be bad, especially when all models were pointing to a very low probability of a repeat El Niņo happening this year. ''The monsoon could also be good due to other favourable factors such as a positive Indian Ocean Dipole,'' the survey noted.

While suggesting the preparation of contingency plan for monsoon, especially after two successive drought years, the survey suggested several measures including declaring the minimum support price for crops like pulses well in advance.

Because of deficient monsoon rain, the country's foodgrain production declined to 252 million tonne (MT) and 253 MT in 2014-15 and 2015-16, respectively, from a record production of 265 MT in 2013-14.

However, the survey noted that the El Nino condition continues to be ''strong'' and is only gradually weakening. ''It will enter neutral zone only with the onset of summer. The prolonged moisture stress from it has, in turn, impacted both kharif as well as the rabi crop,'' it said.

(See Agro-related stocks rally on hopes of bountiful monsoon)

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