Though post-monsoon rains have impacted kharif crops to some extent, they will boost the prospects of rabi crops.
If rabi crops production turns out to be good, then around April there could be a renewed economic activity.
Weather has been a little different this year in India. Probably, the country is witnessing one of its wettest years in recent history.
The beginning of the south-west monsoon, which makes up almost 70 per cent of the country’s total rainfall, wasn’t good in June but by the time the rainy season ended, the country received 10 per cent surplus rainfall.
Though the country received surplus rainfall during the June-September months of the monsoon, western Uttar Pradesh, Gangetic West Bengal, Haryana, Chandigarh, Jammu and Kashmir and parts of the North-East ended up rain deficient.
A comforting factor, though, of these deficient rainfall regions is that they don’t contribute much to kharif crops production barring western Uttar Pradesh. Sugarcane production depends to some extent on how it shapes up in western Uttar Pradesh.
The weather gods have been kind to India so much so that rains continue to lash both western and eastern coasts even today. The western coast, which usually doesn’t receive much rains post-September, has seen active clouds hover over it, bringing in bountiful rains.
There have been at least two low depressions in the region in the last 40 days. One depression has turned into Maha cyclone, which could cross the Gujarat coast and make landfall on Thursday (7 November).
According to the India Meteorological Department, post-monsoon rains, which begin on 1 October through 31 December, are 39 per cent excess than normal until now.
A feature of this is that 17 of the 36 meteorological sub-divisions have received either excess or largely excess rainfall, while nine have received normal rainfall.
The central parts of the country have been awash with post-monsoon rains. Maharashtra, Gujarat and Rajasthan have received more than double the normal rainfall.
Rains in Karnataka have been nearly double, while many other parts have received over 50 per cent excess rainfall since 1 October this year. However, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Delhi, Bihar, Jammu & Kashmir and parts of the North-East are rain deficient.
Before we can look into what these bountiful rains portend for the country and its economy, it will be worthwhile to look at the damage caused by nature on the kharif crops.
One of the fallouts of the rains along the western coast has resulted in onion prices surging by 40 per cent in a week. At retail outlets in some states, onion prices currently have touched Rs 90 a kg, mainly because heavy rains in the growing regions have affected supplies.
According to Skymet, a private weather forecasting firm, post-monsoon rains and resultant floods have affected standing kharif crops in Maharashtra, Punjab, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka.
Besides onion crop, soybean, corn (maize), and cotton crops have been affected in Maharashtra. At least one-third of the cultivated area in the western state is feared to have been affected by post-monsoon rains.
Vineyards, banana, vegetables, and citrus crops have also been hit by the torrential rains in Maharashtra, which tops in production of fruits. In Gujarat, groundnut and cotton crops have been affected. In Madhya Pradesh, soybean and pulses have been hit.
In Punjab and Karnataka, standing paddy crops have been submerged. The problem with the cotton crop is that it has three pickings until January. The rains in the growing areas are likely to affect the second pickings as water could have entered the cotton bolls. A big question mark hangs over the third pickings now.
Sugarcane, rice and pigeon pea are among the other kharif crops to be affected. The damage is yet to be assessed fully as rains continue to lash the western parts.
One of the problems with the kharif crop this year has been late sowing due to deficient rainfall in the early part of the season. This has delayed harvest, resulting in the standing crops getting affected by post-monsoon rains.
On the other hand, these rains could bring in good tidings for the rabi crop for which sowing is set to begin now with harvest around March-end.
A major advantage for the farmers going in for rabi sowing is the soil moisture. These rains have resulted in improved soil moisture and it is likely that growers could be encouraged to go in for early sowing.
This could also result in farmers toying with the idea of opting for a short-term crop between rabi and kharif. In states like Gujarat, farmers grow pre-monsoon groundnut.
One only hopes that winter rains during January-March will be good to encourage farmers to go in for such an option. The other good news is the storage level in the 120 major reservoirs in the country.
According to the Central Water Commission, the storage level in the reservoirs is currently 90 per cent or 153.299 billion cubic metres (BCM) against the capacity of 170.238 BCM. The level is some 22 percentage points higher than last year and 20 percentage points higher than the last 10 years’ average.
In major rabi crops growing states such as Punjab, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Telangana, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal, the storage level is 20 per cent more than normal.
The reservoir storage status augurs well for the rabi crops and in some states such as Telangana, Odisha, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal, it could improve further as they will likely get rainfall under the influence of the North-East monsoon.
The country need not be worried about excess rainfall since it could be handy even for next year’s kharif crop if the storage level continues to be higher.
“It is good to see water filled in lakes, ponds, and rivers as these will ultimately boost the economy,” an agriculture expert said.
Agriculture is the key to the rural economy and, in turn, the country’s economy too. Rural purchases of automobiles, white goods, and fast-moving consumer goods give impetus to factory production and manufacturing, thus injecting life in urban economy.
Though post-monsoon rains have impacted kharif crops to some extent, they will boost the prospects of rabi crops. If rabi crops production turns out to be good, then around April there could be a renewed economic activity.