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India's monsoon rains this year likely to miss forecast for normal showers

Deficient rain in India, the world's second-biggest producer of rice, wheat and sugar and top grower of cotton, can lead to lower crop output and spur imports of commodities.

New Delhi

INDIA'S monsoon, which irrigates more than half of the country's farmland, is likely to be below an earlier forecast of normal showers, Skymet Weather Services Pvt said.

Precipitation during the June-September rainy season is forecast to be 92 per cent of the long-term average of about 89 centimetres, compared with a forecast of 100 per cent made in April, the New Delhi-based private forecaster said on its website.

The monsoons are critical to the farm sector as they accounts for more than 70 per cent of India's annual showers, with about 700 million of the 1.3 billion population depending directly or indirectly on farming.

Deficient rain in the South Asian nation, the world's second-biggest producer of rice, wheat and sugar and top grower of cotton, can lead to lower crop output and spur imports of commodities such as edible oils, pulses and sugar. "The south-west monsoon is likely to go into a prolonged weak phase during August," Skymet said on Wednesday. "As of now, the oceanic parameters are not at all favourable for enhancing monsoon rains during the second half of the season."

Warming of the Pacific Ocean surface is continuing, indicating an evolving El Nino, it said. El Nino, which occurs when the equatorial Pacific surface warms and touches off a reaction in the atmosphere above it, often brings dry weather to parts of Asia and Australia.

The Indian Ocean Dipole has remained neutral, while the Madden Julian Oscillation is not likely to become active until the middle of September or even later, it said.

Rain is seen at 88 per cent of the long-term average in August, compared with the earlier forecast of 96 per cent. Showers in September are likely to be 93 per cent of normal, lower than the earlier prediction of 101 per cent, it said. Monsoon rainfall has been about 6 per cent below normal so far since June 1, according to the India Meteorological Department. Rain in July, which accounts for a third of the country's total annual rain, was about 94 per cent, data from the weather office showed.

"There will be some concerns but I don't see any large impact on agricultural output," Devendra Kumar Pant, chief economist at India Ratings and Research Pvt Ltd, a local unit of Fitch Ratings.

The deficit is only in some parts of the country, which are primarily growing paddy-rice. "You have to look at the spread across the country." Skymet put the chance of below-normal monsoon showers at 60 per cent and predicted a 15 per cent possibility of a normal rainy season. There was also a 25 per cent chance of a drought this year, it said. BLOOMBERG