TODAY -

Weak monsoon concern for farmers

RK Sinha *



The prediction of 'near normal' South West monsoon this year by the Indian Meteorological Department notwithstanding, there is fear of a 'weak monsoon' raising concern for farm sector in the country. The Met Department has said that the possibility of rainfall being 'excessive' or 'above normal' is very low. Overall, the IMD says that the monsoon will be 96% which is near normal spread over four months beginning June next.

What makes the farmers worry is weak rainfall in the first two months of June and July which is the sowing time for khariff crop particularly paddy.

In rice growing States sowing of paddy begins in May end- June in upland that is commonly known as 'taand' in local parlance in rural areas. Once the paddy is strewn in the field, farmers look at sky for the rain bearing cloud to bring rain. When it rains, the seeds sown make the farm land a green bed. If the rain is not good and is not in time, the seeds would dry up.

In India, 75% of farmers depend on monsoon rains. A good monsoon means good crop and a bad monsoon means loss of crop. In low lying farm land the sowing is done in July by transplanting the paddy saplings when the farm land is full of water. If the rainfall is deficient the samplings will die. With such risk, if the monsoon is not good, it will spell doom for our farmers.

I would like to mention here that the number of marginal farmers in our country is highest. A farmer holding one or less than one hectare of land is marginal famer and their number is little over 67% of the total farmers in the country. There are vast areas in the country that are mono crop region. Only one crop is raised in a year. If Khariff crop fails then it is all doom for farmers in these areas.

Few weeks before the official release of Indian Met Department on this year monsoon made on April 15, the department of National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration of the United States predicted that development of a weak El Nino in the equatorial Pacific Ocean that is expected to continue for a few months at least.

"The status of El Nino at this time of the year is usually the first indication of the kind of rainfall that is to be expected during the monsoon season later in the year. This forecast was made in February last.

What is El Nino?

"El Nino is a phenomenon in which surface temperatures in the equatorial Pacific Ocean see an unusual rise. Over the years, it has been found to have a strong bearing on monsoon rainfall in India. While warmer temperatures are known to suppress monsoon rainfall, the opposite phenomenon of La Nina has been found to be helpful in bringing good rainfall".

In the recent past, India has witnessed erratic behavior of monsoon. Despite receiving normal rainfall, the distribution of rain has not been uniform across the country. In some parts of the country rainfall has been good or excessive while in some other parts the rainfall has been deficient or poor resulting floods in certain regions and a drought like situation in other parts of India. Such erratic behavior of monsoon has hit farmers hard who depend on khariff crop.

India is the second largest producer of food grain in the world. The agriculture sector contributes 18 percent of the GDP (Gross Domestic Product) to the Indian economy. Beside the farm sector provide roughly 50% employment to workforce.

According to a BBC report, "Dr Arindam Chakraborty of the Centre for Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences at Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore said data for the last 100 years showed that if the SST in Nino 3.4 was over 0.5C above normal in the four-month monsoon season, rainfall over India gets affected".

More relevant to the Indian monsoon, the warming in the Nino 3.4 region of the Pacific Ocean, the region whose sea surface temperature is seen as be the best marker for the impact on India's rainfall, has been forecast to remain in excess of 0.5C above normal.

The BBC report further says "El Nino events repeat themselves in a two- to seven-year cycle, with a strong El Nino expected every 10-15 years. However, since 2000, five El Nino events have already happened, and this year could witness a sixth one.

New scientific research is pointing to increased frequency of extreme El Ninos due to climate change. A paper published in Nature Climate Change in July 2017 had suggested that such extreme events could happen twice as often as today if the average annual global temperatures reached 1.5C above pre-industrial times.


* RK Sinha wrote this article for The Sangai Express
The writer is a Member of Parliament, Rajya Sabha
This article was webcasted on April 24, 2019.



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