June 25, 2009

India’s southwest monsoon downgraded

India's southwest monsoon is likely to be below normal this year, which could impact the country's vital agricultural harvest.

Southwest monsoon from June to September is likely to be below normal, Earth Sciences Minister Prithviraj Chavan said Wednesday, the Press Trust of India reported.

The announcement further downgraded the weather bureau's April forecast of 96 percent of the average rainfall to 93 percent, the report said.

The new forecast could also further impact water supply, another of the perennial problems of the country with a population of more than 1 billion.

PTI said the monsoon forecast is causing worry among policymakers who had relied on farm growth to help lift the country's economy.

The Financial Times quoted analysts as saying a below-normal monsoon could cause food production to fall and food prices to rise.

In terms of food grain, we have enough stock so we need not worry on the front of food security, P.K. Joshi, director of the National Center for Agricultural, Economic and Policy Research, told the Financial Times. But it will definitely affect production and incomes in rain-fed areas. It's a matter of concern.

The agricultural sector reportedly contributes about 17 percent of India's GDP, and two-thirds of India's population depends on it.