India is likely to receive an average amount of rain in the 2021 monsoon, the state-run weather office said on Friday, raising expectations of higher farm and economic growth in Asia's third-biggest economy, which is reeling from a surge in coronavirus cases.
Monsoon rainfall is expected to total 98 per cent of the long-term average, M. Rajeevan, secretary at the Ministry of Earth Sciences, told a virtual news conference.
The India Meteorological Department (IMD) defines average, or normal, rainfall as between 96 per cent and 104 per cent of a 50-year average of 88 cm (34 inches) for the entire four-month season beginning June.
In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, agriculture has been a bright spot in India's economy, and a good monsoon would help the sector and the countryside, said Radhika Rao, economist at DBS Bank in Singapore.
The monsoon, the lifeline of the country's $2.9 trillion economy, delivers nearly 70 per cent of rains that India needs to water farms and recharge reservoirs and aquifers.
Nearly half of India's farmland, without any irrigation cover, depends on annual June-September rains to grow crops such as rice, corn, cane, cotton and soybeans.
Farming accounts for nearly 15 per cent of the country's economy but sustains more than half of India's 1.3 billion people.
Monsoon rains lash Kerala around June 1 and retreat by September.
"Most models show that La Nina conditions will convert to neutral conditions, and there is a very low chance of El Nino's development during the monsoon season," Mr Rajeevan said.
A strong El Nino, marked by a warming of the sea surface on the Pacific Ocean, can cause severe drought in Australia, Southeast Asia and India.
A strong El Nino triggered back-to-back droughts in 2014 and 2015.
La Nina is an abnormal cooling of ocean temperatures in the eastern and central Pacific, triggering above average rains.