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Three days into retreat of monsoon, India left with driest September in 17 years; unexpected heavy rain damaged crores worth of kharif crops

Unprecedented heavy retreating monsoon rains, in an otherwise dry September, have raised concerns over damage to paddy, cotton and soy crops, especially in parts of north India.

According to reports, this month was the driest September in last 17 years — barring the past few days — even as the Southwest Monsoon stretched on for four more weeks than normal.

India's June-September monsoon, the Southwest Monsoon, slipped into a deficit of roughly nine percent in its last month, after having an otherwise normal spell this year. September alone had recorded a 55 percent deficit as per data up till the week ending 19 September.

However, a heavy spell of rainfall in the last few days have battered a standing kharif crop in parts of northern India. Between 20 and 22 September, the country received around 25.5 millimetres of rainfall, which was 71 percent more than normal. A more detailed report is expected in the first week of October after the Southwest Monsoon winds up its last leg.

Dry spell followed by battering rainfall hits agriculture

Until 19 September, IMD data steadily pointed to the driest September on record in the past 17 years. The weather office reported that the country as a whole had cumulatively received an average area-weighted rainfall of 750.5 millimetres during the current monsoon season since 1 June.

 Cumulative Rainfall since 1 June 2018 As of 19.09.2018 As of 12.09.2018
Actual 17.40% 34.7
Normal 38.80% 46.5
% Deficiency -55% -25%

But despite a 55 percent drier September, it did not adversely affect the crops as much of kharif plantings happen in June-July, when the monsoon spell was ranging around average. Although the dry spell did raise concerns in some areas such as Marathwada, North Karnataka and Gujarat (especially Kutch) which were hit by a dry spells during the crop’s vegetative growth phase.

However, the sudden increase in rainfall activity over north and central parts of India during last four-five days have impacted paddy farmers in the region.

According to a report in Business Standard, heavy rainfall accompanied by strong winds in the last spurt of monsoon has caused 'lodging' in rice fields. Lodging is the unusual bending over of crops, mainly food grains, towards ground that makes harvest difficult and results in low yield.

 Three days into retreat of monsoon, India left with driest September in 17 years; unexpected heavy rain damaged crores worth of kharif crops

Representational image. Reuters

Even as the exact quantum of damage can only be ascertained after reaping, the report states that standing cotton crops in Haryana and Punjab have been adversely affected. In central India, pulses and soy crops may reported flattening and may have suffered substantial damage.

However, the farmers are expecting that some intermittent sunshine and impending withdrawal of monsoon may help in absorbing soil moisture and limit their damage to a few quintal rather than a raging catastrophe like the droughts of 2014-15.

Monsoon recedes four weeks late

IMD had predicted that the June-September monsoon, crucial for a host of cash and food crops in India, is set to start receding from the northwest from Saturday onwards. The monsoon usually starts withdrawing in the first week of September, but this year it has been delayed by nearly four weeks, Reuters reported.

Meanwhile, an extraordinarily dry spell in the month of September has meant an overall deficit of roughly nine percent in the Southwest Monsoon.

A change in the wind pattern is likely over west Rajasthan from Thursday and monsoon withdrawal could start from Saturday, IMD said in a statement.

The monsoon, which delivers 70 percent of India’s annual rainfall, is critical for 263 million farmers and their rice, sugarcane, corn, cotton and soybean crops because nearly half of the country’s farmland lacks irrigation. Nine states in India have received deficient rainfall this year, IMD reported.

The country has so far received nine percent lower rainfall than normal in the current monsoon season raising concerns over production of the country’s summer-sown crops. Rainfall in many key grains producing states has been nearly a quarter lower than normal levels.

With inputs from agencies

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Updated Date: Oct 01, 2018 08:28:41 IST