onsoon has delayed progressing after it hit Kerala nearly a week past its usual time. The amount of rain in June has already been over 40 per cent less than usual. Agricultural activities in most parts of the country are sorely dependent on monsoon and it is all the more so in Odisha. The India Meteorological Department (IMD) forecast average rainfall in 2019, while the country’s only private forecaster Skymet has predicted below-normal rainfall. The delay in rain has already slowed sowing and transplantation activities everywhere, sending alarm bells ringing that at least part of the country is surely headed for drought. The state may be on its way to a drought year.
The monsoon arrived in Kerala June 8 as against the usual June 1. However, Cyclone Vayu developed in the Arabian Sea and that drew moisture from the monsoon and weakened its progress. The monsoon typically covers half of India by this time of the month. But this year, it has covered just a quarter of the country. The shortfall in rain will have a negative impact on farm output, which will in turn have a debilitating effect on consumer demand, the overall economy and financial markets. Economic growth in the country has already hit a sluggish track — the slowest in many years. A poor monsoon and the resultant squeeze on farm income and the consequent farmer distress can only prolong economic recovery. There are chances that the delay in monsoon could be offset by a week or two of continuous downpour as has been seen in the past. There were instances where rainfall deficits in June were fully offset by a week of rain in July. But in a state like ours, unremitted rain even for a week will invariably result in floods.
The monsoon delivers about 70 per cent of India’s annual rainfall and determines the yield of rice, wheat, sugarcane and oilseeds such as soya bean. Farming makes up about 15 per cent of India’s $2.5 trillion economy but employs more than half of its 1.3 billion people. Rising farm output from a decent monsoon boosts demand for consumer goods in rural regions. It will give a leg up to automobile industries across segments. Sale of commercial vehicles and two-wheelers will also see an uptick. Manufacturing will also get a boost. A stronger economic outlook tends to lift stock prices of companies focused on selling products in rural areas. India is self-sufficient in rice and wheat, but a drought would increase imports of pulses and edible oils, such as palm oil, soya oil and sunflower oil. Monsoon rains replenish reservoirs and groundwater, allowing better irrigation and more hydro-power output. Higher rainfall can trim demand for subsidised diesel, which is used to pump water from wells for irrigation. In case of a drought, the government will pay farmers, putting a strain on fiscal deficit. A good monsoon will limit such government spending. A drought would raise prices of vegetables and pulses, requiring increased spending on welfare schemes. A delay in the onset of monsoon will hasten prospects of a drought in the state.