Monsoon rains are expected to be average this year, the India Meteorological Department or IMD said on Monday, which should support agricultural production and economic growth in the country, where half of the farmland lacks irrigation.
Monsoon rainfall is expected to be 96 percent of the long-term average, M. Rajeevan, secretary at the Ministry of Earth Sciences, told a news conference.
The IMD defines average, or normal, rainfall as between 96 percent and 104 percent of a 50-year average of 89 centimetres for the entire four-month season beginning June.
"Overall, the country is expected to have well distributed rainfall scenario during the 2019 monsoon season, which will be beneficial to farmers in the country during the ensuing Kharif (summer-planting) season," the IMD said in its forecast. The weather office will update its forecast in the first week of June.
However, on average, the IMD has forecast accurately only once every five years over the past two decades, even after taking into account an error band of plus or minus 5 percentage points, news agency Reuters said.
Skymet, the country's only private weather forecasting agency, earlier this month forecast rainfall could be below normal this year.
Monsoon rains, the lifeblood for India's farm-dependent $2.6 trillion economy, arrive on the southern tip of Kerala state around June 1 and retreat from the desert state of Rajasthan by September.
After a wet spell, sowing of summer-sown crops gets off to a strong start, boosting crop yields and output which in turn raises rural incomes and usually lifts consumer spending in the country.
Stronger agricultural production would help support India's economy. It is still the world's fastest-growing major economy, but annual growth slowed to 6.6 percent in the December quarter, from 7.0 percent in the previous period and the slowest in five quarters.
If plentiful monsoon rains lift agricultural production this year, that could keep food prices under control. Subdued overall inflation could also add to pressure on the Reserve Bank of India to cut interest rates.
The next policy review by the central bank is scheduled for June 6, after the Lok Sabha elections. Crores of Indians are casting their votes in a mammoth general election, spread over seven weeks.
(With inputs from Reuters)
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