28 Nov 2017 17:41 IST

Tracking the north-east monsoon

Despite IMD forecasts, it has remained subdued in most States

The North-east monsoon is the poor cousin of the south-west monsoon, which wields enormous influence over the country’s rural economy. But it has an important role to play in some of the southern States and is quite critical to crops such as tur dal and urad dal.

While rainfall from the north-east monsoon has been subdued so far this year, it is far better when compared to last year. Sowing of rabi crops such as pulses, lentil and rice is progressing at a brisk pace.


Rains for the South

The south-west monsoon, which brings rain to the country between June and September, is crucial for kharif crops such as rice, jowar, bajra, groundnut, coarse cereals, ragi and castor seeds. It is the source of about 75 per cent of India’s rainfall. On the other hand, the rainfall received during October to December favours rabi crops such as tur dal, urad dal, rapeseed, mustard, linseed, sunflower, wheat and barley.

The north-east monsoon primarily covers the southern regions of Tamil Nadu, Puducherry, coastal Andhra Pradesh and Rayalaseema though the rest of the country also benefits from it. Tamil Nadu gets 40 per cent of its rain during this time, while coastal areas of Andhra and Rayalaseema receive 60 per cent and the other districts of the State get 40-50 per cent of rainfall because of the north-east monsoon. Parts of Kerala, Karnataka and Lakshadweep receive nearly 20 per cent of annual rainfall though they primarily depend on the south-west monsoon. The average rainfall ranges between 50-70 cm, particularly for Tamil Nadu.


Performance issues

Rainfall in the north-east monsoon season has not been good in recent years. The Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) — the principal agency for meteorological observations, weather forecasting, rainfall monitoring and seismology — has released data that says barring 2013-14, the actual rainfall during the N-E season was lower than the normal rainfall in the last five years.

This year (2017-18), IMD has forecasted that the north-east monsoon is likely to be normal. However, it has remained subdued with largely deficient rainfall in 14 States and normal rainfall in 13.

According to recent data (between October 1 and November 22), the country received 94.1 mm rainfall against the norm of around 104 mm. While it is 10 per cent lower than the norm, it is far better than 2016-17, when the deficit was 42 per cent. Similarly, in 2015-16, though southern States such as Tamil Nadu received excess rainfall, the country has a whole had deficit rainfall of 25 per cent. But in 2013-14, the country received excess rainfall during this period.


Rabi sowing

This year, sowing of rabi crops has declined by 1.5 per cent to about 316 lakh hectares of land when compared to the last year. At the same time, increased sowing activities can be seen in crops such as pulses, lentil and gram for the year 2017-18 when compared to the last four years.

Among the rabi sowing States, Madhya Pradesh has reported increase in sowing areas of wheat by about 41 per cent to 35.5 lakh hectares compared to last year. Similarly, there was a 40 per cent increase in the planting of gram to 27.5 lakh hectares compared to last year’s sown area of 19.6 lakh hectares. Other crops where the State leads in area sown are pulses, lentil and field pea.

Tamil Nadu, which receives maximum rainfall during the north-east monsoon, has reported an increase of about 25 per cent in the sowing of rice to 8.4 lakh hectares, while 6.7 lakh hectares was sown last year. In coarse cereals, jowar, bajra and ragi, Maharashtra and Karnataka have reported increase in sowing activities.