MUMBAI/NEW DELHI (Reuters) - India will receive normal rainfall over the 2016 monsoon season, not surplus as previously expected, with the chances of a La Nina weather pattern emerging over the period seen as unlikely, three senior officials at state-run weather department said.
A forecast for above-average rains had stoked fears of crop damage during harvest, but with normal rainfall farmers can reap bumper crops. The June-September monsoon is crucial for India’s rain-fed farm sector that accounts for nearly 15 percent of its $2 trillion economy - Asia’s third biggest.
“Rainfall is likely to remain in the normal range,” a senior official at India Meteorological Department (IMD) told Reuters on Wednesday.
India’s weather office defines average, or normal, rainfall as between 96 percent and 104 percent of a 50-year average of 89 cm for the entire four-month season.
Earlier this month, the IMD had forecast monsoon rains at 106 percent or above normal.
“We are assessing weather models and based on it, we may release a revised forecast next week,” the official said.
Another IMD official attributed the revision in forecast to the absence of La Nina, a weather phenomenon that typically causes stronger monsoons across Asia.
“The La Nina is unlikely to develop during monsoon season,” D. S. Pai, head of Long Range Forecast at IMD, told Reuters. “Even if it develops in October, it will be a weak La Nina.”
A U.S. government weather forecaster has said there is a 55-60 percent chance that La Nina would develop during the fall and winter of 2016/17. The agency’s expectations have dropped substantially since June, when it said there was a 75 percent chance of a La Nina developing.
India has so far received 2 percent lower rainfall than normal since the start of the monsoon season on June 1.
The monsoon, which delivers 70 percent of India’s annual rainfall, is critical for the country’s 263 million farmers and their rice, cane, corn, cotton and soybean crops because nearly half of its farmland lacks irrigation.
As on Aug. 19, farmers had cultivated summer-sown crops on 99.3 million hectares, up 5.8 percent from a year ago, farm ministry data showed.
Reporting by Rajendra Jadhav and Mayank Bhardwaj; Editing by Himani Sarkar