New Delhi: The monsoon is expected to arrive on time this year, hitting Kerala on June 1, but rainfall may remain below normal, prompting the government to put in place a contingency plan and push crop insurance for farmers.
The contingency plan would cover as many as 580 districts that may witness monsoon deficit, while the Agriculture Ministry is also mulling over steps to popularise crop insurance schemes among the farming community.
"The onset of monsoon looks normal. An error window of 2-3 days can be taken. As of now, there is no delay in arrival of rain. However, monsoon is expected to be below normal due to El Nino factor," a senior official of the Indian Metorological Department (IMD) told PTI.
The timely onset of southwest monsoon is crucial for sowing of kharif (summer) crops like paddy and a deficit in rainfall may hit the rice output.
Last year, the country had received 12 per cent less rains, which hit production of grains, cotton and oilseeds.
After a poor monsoon in 2014, the untimely rains during March-April this year have already put farmers in distress and there have been quite a few cases of farmer suicides.
Preparing for below-average rains, the Agriculture Ministry is working hard to minimise the impact of weak monsoon on kharif production especially rice and food inflation.
"The state governments have been asked to fully gear up to implement the contingency plan in 580 districts. In some districts, we are updating contingency measures as per the local needs," Agriculture Secretary Siraj Husain said.
He further said a big push would be given to popularise crop insurance scheme among the farming community.
The Indian Meteorological Department (IMD), which has earlier forecast below-average monsoon in 2015, is scheduled to announce on May 15 the likely date of monsoon onset and its progress thereafter.
Private weather forecaster Skymet will also release its update on monsoon around the same time.
"We are projecting normal monsoon, which is expected to land on time around June 1 with 2-3 days of error window," Skymet CEO Jatin Singh said.
Agriculture, which contributes only 15 per cent to India's Gross Domestic Product (GDP) but employs about 60 per cent of population, is heavily dependent on monsoon as only 40 per cent of the cultivable area is under irrigation.