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Thursday, July 9th, 2020
Home » The Human Element » COMMODITIES: India suffers driest June in five years, fears for crops

COMMODITIES: India suffers driest June in five years, fears for crops

PortandTerminal.com, July 1, 2019

More than two-thirds of India is covered by drylands and 53% of its agriculture is dependent on the rains. With climate change affecting weather systems, the Indian monsoon is becoming more erratic. 

NEW DELHI, INDIA – Hundreds of Indian villages have been evacuated as a historic drought forces families to abandon their homes in search of water.

The country has seen extremely high temperatures in recent weeks. On Monday the capital, Delhi, saw its highest ever June temperature of 48C. In Rajasthan, the city of Churu recently experienced highs of 50.8C, making it the hottest place on the planet.

Large parts of India are experiencing the worst drought in decades. Overall, rains were a third below average, although in some states, including the sugar cane growing northern state of Uttar Pradesh, they were as much as 61 percent down, data from the India Meteorological Department (IMD) showed.

An Indian migrant shepherd kneels down among his dead sheep at a field in Ranagadh village, Surendranagar district. Photograph: Sam Panthaky/AFP/Getty Images

Over half of India’s arable land relies on rainfall, while agriculture makes up about 15% of Asia’s third-largest economy, which is already suffering a slowdown.

The monsoon usually covers nearly the entire country by July 1, but has covered less than two-thirds so far this year, according to the IMD data.

If the rains don’t improve over the next two to three weeks, India could face a crisis that hammers harvests and rural demand, analysts said. Companies supplying farmers with everything from tractors to consumer goods would be vulnerable.

The country is still recovering from a drought last year that ravaged crops, killed livestock, emptied reservoirs and drained water supplies to city dwellers and some industries.

Rains first arrived in the southern state of Kerala a week late on June 8, but the developing Cyclone Vayu in the Arabian Sea drew moisture from the monsoon and weakened its progress.

Cotton, soybean and pulses growing western and central parts of India are likely to get good rainfall in the first half of July, but rains could be below average in northern India, said an IMD official, who declined to be named as he was not authorized to speak with media.

In the second half of July rainfall in north-western India could improve, but rains in central and western India could be subdued, the official said.

Overall, India faces below average rainfall in July but the deficit is likely to be far smaller than June’s 33%, he said.

In 2014, India received 42% less rainfall in June and ended the June-Sept monsoon season with rains 12% below average.

The weak start to the monsoon has delayed planting, with farmers sowing crops on 14.7 million hectares as of June 28, down almost 10% on a year earlier.

For 2019, the IMD in late May forecast average rainfall, while the country’s only private forecaster, Skymet, has predicted below-normal rainfall.

A normal, or average, monsoon means rainfall between 96% and 104% of a 50-year average of 89 cm (35 inches) during the four-month monsoon season, according to the IMD’s classification.

This report includes coverage by REUTERS

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