Following a dry August with monsoon rainfall the lowest in a century, September is expected to see normal rains, according to India Meteorological Department (IMD). It forecasts monthly rainfall to be normal at 91-109 percent of long period average (LPA) in September with above-normal rainfall in the east and Northeast, but likely below-normal rainfall for the rest of the country.
However, there is a warning of El Niño conditions, which may intensity further and continue up to early next year. Currently, weak El Niño conditions are prevailing over the equatorial Pacific region.
During August, India received 162.7 mm rainfall, which is 36 percent less than its LPA 254.9 mm based on data from 1971 to 2020. Rainfall all over India was lowest at 162.7 mm since 1901 against the previous record of 191.2 mm in 2005. In the month, there was one exceptionally heavy rainfall recorded mainly over Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Assam and Meghalaya, Sub Himalayan West Bengal and Sikkim, Bihar, Odisha and East Madhya Pradesh.
Also read: Rain watch for August 24-30: Monsoon remains weak; water storage low
Cumulatively, the country’s rainfall level is now 11 percent below the LPA for the June 1-September 3 period. Out of 36 subdivisions, 11 are now experiencing a rainfall deficit, up from six at the end of July. The deficits in the southern and central regions have also increased.
With the relatively limited rainfall extending for a month now, while sowing activity is broadly completed, uncertainty over the impact of this ‘dry’ patch on crop yields has increased, particularly for those crops that are relatively more monsoon-dependent, such as soybean and pulses. Already, the area sown under pulses is lagging compared to the previous year, and is unlikely to improve materially given that the sowing season is almost over, amid a rainfall shortfall in key producer states, Maharashtra and Karnataka. Overall, the area sown through August 25 was just above 0.3 percent above the corresponding period of 2022 and covered 96.5 percent of the ‘normal’ area sown, shows a Barclays analysis.
Reservoir levels saw a marginal decline as a percentage of live capacity over the past week, as of August 31, with storage in key reservoirs standing at 63 percent versus 64 percent the previous week.
This is also lower than last year’s level at this stage of the monsoon season (77 percent of available capacity), as well as lower than the historical average for this point in the season.
Region wise, reservoir storage levels in the southern and eastern regions are lower than the country’s average, reflecting persistent rainfall shortfalls in these areas. "This is a bigger concern, as low reservoir levels will impact both industrial activity and winter crops, which depend more on standing water reservoirs, and create greater price uncertainty,” says Rahul Bajoria, managing editor, head of EM Asia (ex-China), Economics, Barclays.
Forbes India presents a weekly series Rain Watch where we simplify rainfall status, water reservoir levels and sowing pattern of kharif crops data analysis by Barclays.