Indian Agro Industry at Stake as Pacific Weather Pattern Surges: Ind-Ra
| Didhiti Ghosh, Bureau Chief, IOP, Kolkata - 14 Jun 2019

By Didhiti Ghosh, Bureau Chief (Kolkata), IOP

Kolkata / New Delhi, June 14, 2019: A band of warm ocean water that develops in the central and east-central equatorial Pacific including the area off the Pacific coast of South America is predicted to adversely impact India’s Monsoons this year. The phenomenon, El Niño is accompanied by high air pressure in the western Pacific and low air pressure in the eastern Pacific. Developing countries that depend on their own agriculture and fishing, particularly those bordering the Pacific Ocean, are usually most affected.

El Niño is generally known to suppress monsoon rainfall in India. In view of El Niño, the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) expects monsoon to be near normal in 2019, while private weather forecaster, Skymet expects it to be below normal. However, India Ratings and Research (Ind-Ra) believes the emergence of El Niño may not necessarily signify a significant drop in agricultural output and drought. The evolving positive Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD; a weather phenomenon in the Indian Ocean) is likely to offset the adverse impact of El Niño on rainfall during 2019.

The weather changes as a result of El Niño can constrain the supply of rain-driven agricultural commodities; reduce agricultural output, construction, and services activities; create food-price and generalised inflation, and may trigger social unrest in commodity-dependent poor countries that primarily rely on imported food.

Between 1990 and 2018, ten years were classified as El Niño years of varying intensity. However, India experienced rainfall deficiency of over 5% in only seven of those ten years; out of the seven years, only four were classified as drought years.

Interestingly, in 1994, which was classified as a year of moderate El Niño {June – September Oceanic Niño Index (ONI) ranged between 0.4 and 0.7}, the rainfall was 12.5% more than the long period average (LPA) rainfall. This was because the negative impact of El Niño was more than offset by the positive IOD, whose value ranged between 0.6 and 0.9 during the months of June–September in 1994. If the IOD value remains above the threshold level of 0.4 for at least eight consecutive weeks, it creates favourable conditions for the monsoon rainfall.

The Australian Meteorological Bureau (AMB) has indicated that the IOD will remain above this threshold value during all the weeks of June 2019 and even during July 2019 (barring one week). Out of the six international climate models surveyed by AMB, five models have predicted that IOD’s value would remain higher than the threshold level till the end of October 2019. Thus, despite a delayed onset, there is still a fair chance of India witnessing a close to normal monsoon in 2019.

Indian agriculture’s resilience towards adverse weather shocks (deficient rainfall) has undoubtedly increased over the years owing to increased irrigation intensity (gross irrigated area as a percentage of the gross cropped area). However, the ability to absorb the shock varies across states and is linked to the overall area under irrigation.

At an all-India level, the area under irrigation increased to 53.1% in FY15 compared with 40.1% in FY97. As a result, the correlation between the Kharif foodgrain output and monsoon rains (June-September) declined to 0.4 for FY13-FY17 compared with 0.6 and 0.8 during FY97-FY04 and FY05-FY12, respectively.

Ind-Ra believes another factor that has lessened the adverse impact of the deficient monsoon on India’s agriculture is the increase in the production of Rabi crop, which is more dependent on the moisture retained in the soil and the water available in reservoirs. Historically, agriculture production used to be higher in the Kharif season than in the Rabi season. However, in the current decade, Rabi food grain production has mostly been either at par or higher than Kharif production.                                               

Image Courtesy: NASA, NY Times, Skymet Weather

(DIDHITI GHOSH is an India Columnist at La Agencia Mundial de Prensa, USA, and is the Bureau Chief of Indian Observer Post based in Kolkata. E-mail: | LinkedIn:

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