SKYMET STICKS OUT ITS NECK

about 4 months ago
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“Kaale megha, kaale megha, paani toh barsao”

Like Aamir Khan and his team of Lagaan, maybe its time for all of us to do and a song and dance to woo the rain Gods. Yet, will El Nino allow the monsoon to remain normal?

The newspapers are full of stories today on the estimation Skymet; it has stuck to its low rainfall report despite IMD saying that it expects it to be normal. The earlier report of Skymet was released on 3rd April and it had predicted a below normal monsoon to the tune of 93%. The report released yesterday by Skymet stated that monsoon will come about four day late into Kerala, by 4th June, indicating an overall sluggish start.

Skymet has said that there is a 30% chance of normal rainfall which is between 96% and 104% of Long Period Average (LPA), 55% of below normal rainfall and 15% of drought. It has predicted deficient rainfall in West Bengal, North-East, Jharkhand, Bihar, interior Karnataka and Rayalaseema. Odisha and Chhattisgarh are likely to the rainiest while Vidarbha, Marathwada, Western Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat will see lower rainfall.

The Govt owned India Meteorological Department (IMD) released its report today and it concurred with Skymet’s prediction of late arrival – it predicts rains to hit Kerala by 6th June. IMD’s operational forecasts of the date of monsoon onset during the past 14 years (2005- 2018) were proved to be correct except in 2015.

IMD is yet to issue a monsoon forecast and that is expected before the end of this week. In its previous prediction, contrary to Skymet, IMD had said that the upcoming monsoon will be near normal and rainfall up to 96%.

Well, for now, we can only read through these reports and compare notes. But ultimately, the actual monsoon performance is what will decide who was correct.

But Skymet’s prediction of a deficiency is a living nightmare for a country like India where over 60% of the population is directly or indirectly dependent on agriculture.

As such the Indian economy is grappling under slower growth and rising inflation and if monsoon is low, things on the macro front could only get sticky. Lower rains will first and foremost mean lower food grain production and that will mean higher costs and more imports. This is the time when kharif crops are sown and kharif production accounts for around 57% of total agricultural production. Rice is one crop which could get affected as it is the most important food crop during the kharif season. Production of oilseeds and pulses could also get affected and this would mean that India, which is already the largest importer of cooking oil and lentils, will import more. And unfortunately, even before a shortfall is announced, speculators start playing on the prices, hoarding and artificially jacking up the prices. This speculation leads to not just high prices but it remains high even when it should ideally start tapering off. Thus the inflation caused due to shortfall in production has much longer term effect.

Rainfall deficiency will also lead to lower power output, mainly from hydro power as lower water levels will not allow enough power to get generated. This will also mean that farmers will have lesser money in hand and that in turn will affect the overall buying power in rural India – especially for white goods and to some extent FMCG products. We are already seeing that; Q4 has been a very poor story for consumption and we see it continuing into Q1FY20 too.

Let us all hope and pray that this time around that IMD is right and the rain Gods come crashing, washing away all the troubles. Be a Hindu, Muslim or Christian, nature is one thing which unifies us and we all, irrespective of the race, religion, need rains. In unison, let us pray for the rains for the wellbeing of India and Indians.

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