Uncertain rains

Though many parts of the country have got into the monsoon mood, there are ominous reports that the rainfall is not active in large areas which should by now have been covered by it. There was an early onset of the monsoon on the Kerala coast but the progress has been tardy. In Karnataka, though there were showers that cooled the air and caused civic problems in places, the quantum of rain that matters for the farmers has not yet materialised. Last week’s update by the Indian Meteorological Department has said there is a pause in the monsoon and it may revive only next week. This might result in a delay in the advance of the monsoon to most areas in the country, which may have a serious impact on agriculture and the economy. The sowing season extends over a month from early June but since some time has already been lost, there is reason to feel that things may not be entirely normal.

Water scarcity is being felt in places where farming has already taken place. In other places farmers have postponed sowing. If the monsoon revives by next week, there will still be time for sowing, though the variations in the pattern of rainfall will have a bearing on farming operations.  If things go wrong, kharif output will be adversely affected. When the economy is trying to recover from an year-long slowdown, a poor agricultural performance is the last thing to be had, especially because triggering rural growth is an important part of the revival efforts.

Governments should be prepared to face the situation if the monsoon proves to be below par or late in parts of the country. In the past lack of anticipation has led to serious consequences.  It is advisable to have contingency plans for different scenarios and the government machinery should be ready to meet any eventuality.  A below normal agricultural performance may not have a big impact on food grains availability or prices because there are ample stocks with the government. But rural incomes will be affected and this will have affect consumption levels. Increased rural consumption is required for the recovery of the economy.  

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