India Keeps Normal Monsoon Forecast, Easing Inflation Fears

India maintained its forecast for a normal monsoon this year, tempering concerns about weather risks to inflation.

(Bloomberg) — India maintained its forecast for a normal monsoon this year, tempering concerns about weather risks to inflation.

Rainfall during the June-September season may reach 96% of a long-term average, D.S. Pai, a senior scientist at the India Meteorological Department, said in an online briefing Friday. The latest prediction matches with its previous forecast in April. 

The monsoon is inextricably linked to India’s economy. It waters half of the country’s farmlands, and has the power to determine prices of food staples and the livelihoods of hundreds of millions of farmers. While inflation has slowed to an 18-month low, analysts have been concerned that adverse weather could drive up risks again. 

Any deficiency in showers during the rainy season due to a developing El Niño weather pattern is likely to be offset by a positive Indian Ocean Dipole, Pai said. Showers will improve in July, and compensate any deficit in June, he said. The IMD predicts that monsoon rains could arrive slightly later than usual this year.   

“A slightly late onset and below-normal rainfall in June 2023 can be mitigated by the seasonally-healthy reservoir levels,” said Aditi Nayar, chief economist with ICRA Ltd. A normal distribution of rainfall in July will be critical to ensure timely sowing of monsoon-sown crops over the majority of the country, she said.

El Niño, which occurs when the equatorial Pacific surface warms and touches off a reaction in the atmosphere above it, often brings dry weather to parts of Asia. The IOD, however, is the difference in the surface temperature between western and eastern parts of the Indian Ocean. Positive IOD is generally favorable for rains in India.

More from the IMD:

  • The probability of a normal monsoon is as high as 43% this year. Last year’s rains were 106% of the average rainfall, boosting food grain output to an all-time high.
  • Out of 15 El Niño years during 1951-2022, there were six occasions when monsoon rains were normal- to above-normal, according to the IMD.
  • Rains will be normal in most parts of India, except the northwest region where below-average showers are expected.
  • Maximum temperatures are likely to be above-normal over most parts of the country in June.
  • India declares a monsoon normal when rains fall between 96% and 104% of the long-term average. The forecast has a margin of error of 4%.
  • Private forecaster Skymet has predicted a below-normal monsoon, saying rains may reach only 94% of average levels.

–With assistance from Carolynn Look, Anirban Nag and Vrishti Beniwal.

(Updates to add details throughout.)

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