INDIA’S monsoon season rains were set to cover the whole country by the weekend, according to meteorological department officials, allowing farmers in northern states to begin planting of summer-sown crops a week earlier than normal.
The monsoon, the lifeblood of India’s $3 trillion (£2.35trillion) economy, delivers nearly 70 per cent of the rain needed to water its farms and recharge reservoirs and aquifers. It also brings relief from the worst of the summer.
In a typical year, rains usually lash Kerala state, on India’s southwest coast, from around June 1 and move northwards to cover the entire country by July 8.
This year, the formation of severe cyclone Biparjoy in the Arabian Sea delayed the onset of monsoon rains and stalled their progress, with just a third of the country covered until last week.
But over the past weekend the rains resumed and by Tuesday (27) they had reached other parts of the country, except for some areas in the northern states of Rajasthan, Punjab and Haryana, a senior official at the India Meteorological Department (IMD) told Reuters.
“By this weekend, the monsoon will cover the remaining parts as well,” he said.
The rains revival during the past few days had reduced the rainfall deficit for the June-September season to 23 per cent from 33 per cent a week ago, IMD data showed.
Many north-eastern, central and northern states are likely to receive heavy rainfall this week, which would bring the deficit below 20 per cent, a second IMD official said.
Planting of paddy, cotton, soybean, pulses and other summersown crops were delayed, but sowing would gain momentum from this week, said a senior government official, who declined to be named. The IMD has forecast an average amount of rainfall for the entire four-month season despite the formation of an El Nino weather pattern.
A strong El Nino, marked by a warming of the sea surface on the Pacific Ocean, can cause severe drought in southeast Asia, India and Australia.
The emergence of El Nino weather patterns triggered back-to-back droughts in 2014 and 2015 for only the fourth time in over a century, pushing many Indian farmers into poverty.