Weak monsoon intensifies drought-like conditions in India
NEW DELHI: Drought-like conditions are intensifying as the monsoon hasn’t moved an inch for 10 days now, leaving oilseeds, pulses and paddy fields parched and posing the threat of food inflation and weak rural demand in the first year of the Narendra Modi government.
Prices of vegetables and onions are already rising because June rainfall is among the lowest in a century. The rainfall deficit for the country is 37%, even before El Nino has developed.
The weather phenomenon is associated with a bad monsoon. Adding to the concerns of policy-makers is the rapid depletion of water in India’s biggest reservoirs, which was 33% more than last year’s level at the beginning of June because of unseasonal heavy showers before the monsoon.
The water level has now fallen to last year’s level because of scanty rainfall.
In many reservoirs, the level is lower than last year. India’s southwest monsoon runs from June to September. Experts say unless the monsoon rapidly, the country will have to deal with rising food prices.
The weather office offers little comfort. The monsoon is unlikely to progress in the next two-three days, said BP Yadav, head of the National Weather Forecasting Centre at the India Meteorological Department.
India will largely remain dry,” said BP Yadav of the National Weather Forecasting Centre. Food prices are already a concern for the government, which has imposed export restrictions on onions, ordered the release of more rice and advised states to crack down on hoarding and take steps to cut out the middlemen in farm products.
Prices of vegetables are already rising in some parts of the country, and farmers are worried. “Progress of sowing of vegetables, oilseeds, pulses and paddy is slow this year.
We expect prices of all vegetables to double three months from now. This will not translate into higher margins for farmers, as the production cost will go up,” said Ajay Jakhar, chairman of the Bharatiya Krishak Samaj, a farmers’ association headquartered in Delhi with members across the country.
He said the prices of oilseeds and pulses may also rise due to weak rainfall in the western and central regions, but the situation would be comfortable for grains because of adequate stocks.
Onion prices have increased about 16% to Rs 14-20 per kg in recent days, said Nashik District Onion Traders Association president Sohanlal Bhandari. “The cheap quality onion at Rs 14 a kg is smaller in size and the skin cover has peeled off.
I will not like to say how prices will move. You can see they are firm,” he said. Prices of some vegetables are rising in Delhi’s wholesale market and fruits are expected to become costlier as Ramadan, the Muslim month of fasting, begins end-June.
“Prices of vegetables, from bitter gourd, bottle gourd, cucumber, tomato and lemon, which were selling below Rs 10 per kg a week ago, are now at Rs 25 a kg,” said Mahinder Sanpal, member, Azadpur Mandi APMC.