Forecast indicates that El Nino conditions are likely to persist during the southwest monsoon season
In its latest forecast, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) has predicted 93 per cent seasonal rainfall for the southwest monsoon this year. According to Union minister Harsh Vardhan, the weather agency is also carefully monitoring sea surface temperatures to assess the impact of El Nino.
“Quantitatively, the monsoon seasonal rainfall is likely to be 93 per cent of the Long Period Average (LPA) with a model error of ± 5 per cent,” said Harsh Vardhan during a press conference in Delhi on Wednesday.
Although IMD has forecast a 35 per cent probability of rainfall being below normal, the press release states an almost equal chance of rainfall being deficient. Last year, the southwest monsoons were deficient by about 12 per cent. If this year’s forecast stands, it would be the second year in a row with deficient rainfall. This is bad news for farmers who have already suffered huge crop losses due to unseasonal rains in March this year.
The department will now issue updated forecasts in June 2015 as part of the second stage forecast.
Forecast worries farmers
Shyam Singh, a farmer from Shamli district in western Uttar Pradesh, suffered 35 to 50 per cent crop loss due to unseasonal rainfall earlier this year. He says he would suffer “extensive” losses in case of deficient rains between June and September.
“I am planning to sow paddy, jowar and bajra this time. Paddy needs enough water and in case of poor rainfall, water will have to be brought to the fields with generators, which is a costly affair,” Singh says.
Rajendra Singh, another farmer from the same district, says the government is not paying any attention to farmers’ problems. “I have suffered 70 to 80 per cent loss after my wheat crop was damaged due to hail and rainfall earlier this year. There was no help from the government and no one even bothered to visit the fields to estimate the loss. Power department officials are now after me for the payment of bills. The situation has become worse, but there is nothing that farmers can do,” he says.
"Forewarned is forearmed," says agriculture scientist M S Swaminathan. "We should start preparing contingency plans to suit different rainfall probabilities such as seed banks, rain water harvesting and efficient use procedures. What is important for farmers is the inter-spell duration in rains and coversion of generic information into location-specific advice."
Swaminathan adds that agricultural universities, ICAR institutions and agriculture departments must jointly prepare a deficient monsoon management strategy with farm families. He also says that special attention must be paid to feeding and saving farm animals as their sale indicates the first sign of distress.
Farmers are currently engaged in cutting and threshing of wheat crop. According to Bhartiya Kisan Union’s national general secretary, Anil Malik, farmers are planning to sow rice, wheat, jowar and bajra this monsoon. The sowing of sugarcane has already started in some places.
Malik says that in case of a “below normal” forecast in a particular year, irrigation tanks and canals must be repaired so that farmers do not suffer due to lack of water. “Also, power supply should be made extensive. Normally, farmers get around six to seven hours of power daily. In case of poor rainfall, power should be made available for at least 12 to 14 hours so that farmers can work in the fields,” he adds.
(With inputs from Jitendra)
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