Yield prospects are doubtful as the monsoon season ends with 14% deficit

India had a bad monsoon spell this year, and the situation has worsened after nearly 6 years. Deficit monsoon season has adversely affected the Kharif crops. The production prospect of Rabi crops is also lowered because of poor rains during the monsoon session. Withdrawal of 2015 southwest monsoon began from northwest India in the first week of September that was roughly two weeks earlier than last year. Monsoon was below normal during September, and most parts of the country experienced a prolonged dry spell from last week of August through middle of September. 

There was a revival in the rainfall in the third week of September and providing some relief to the moisture stressed standing crops, but this could not reduce the problem of yield losses in most of the summer sown crops. According to the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD), India’s cumulative precipitation from June through September 28 stood 14 percent below the seasonal long-term average. The rainfall was reported normal in only 19 weather subdivisions, and deficient in the remaining 17 sub-divisions, to include agriculturally important states of Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Maharashtra, Telangana and parts of Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka.
Because of weak monsoon precipitation, planting of Kharif crops have slowed down in August/September. Market sources expect crop loss to rice, corn and other coarse grains in the eastern states (Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Jharkhand) and peninsular India (Maharashtra, Telangana and Karnataka). Besides affecting the soil moisture availability to the standing Kharif (fall harvested) crops, deficient rains this year might affect the soil moisture and irrigation water availability for the upcoming Rabi (winter planted) crops. 
India’s Agriculture Ministry has released its First Advance Estimates of Food Grain Production for the Indian Crop Year (ICY) 2015/16 (July-June), and estimated India’s Kharif grain production at 124.1 million metric tons (MMT), more than two million tons lower than last year, and seven MMT lower than the government’s production target set at the beginning of the season. The Ministry of Agriculture currently estimates Kharif rice production at 90.6 MMT (against 90.9 MMT last year), corn at 15.5 MMT (against 16.4 MMT), sorghum at 1.9 MMT (against 2 MMT) and millet at 10.5 MMT (against 11.4 MMT). It should be noted the first advance estimates are based mostly on the planting conditions, therefore the estimated figures can be revised later subject to fresh crop progress and harvest reports.
Despite a drop in overall monsoon rainfall in 2015, Kharif sowing has been more than last year. This was due to intensified showers in June and its rather even distribution over some parts thereafter. According to latest data issued by the India’s department of agriculture, Kharif sowing was complete on 103.13 million hectares, and this remains above last year numbers by 1.35 million hectares. However there is little scope now of any significant increase in the sowing, since the southwest monsoon has withdrawn from parts of central and northern India. 
Officially, 2015 monsoon season has ended on September 30, with an overall shortfall of 14 per cent, worst since 2009. Currently size of the Rabi season crops is estimated above last year’s. The Agriculture Ministry released its first sowing report for the Rabi season. As on October 23, wheat and coarse cereals were sown over 28.20 lakh hectares (lh), about 63 per cent more than at the same time last year when the season’s crops had covered 17.36 lakh hectares. Coarse cereals have been covered on 16.57 lh (11.19 lh). Wheat, the main Rabi food grain, has been transplanted over 0.20 lakh hectares. 
Summarizing, rise in sowing area of Kharif crops for this year is mainly because of increase in cropping under pulses. Official sources say that the acreage is 12 per cent higher compared to last year. The Cotton Association of India (CAI) has lowered its 2015-16 production estimate to 377 lakh bales (of 170 kg each), around 1.5 per cent lower than last year. Overall cotton coverage might falter by 8 per cent. Sugar production is also expected to drop this year by almost 5 per cent to 27 MT and according to the Indian Sugar Mills Association, the cane crop is likely to be affected by the poor monsoon in Maharashtra and UP. 
As understood from official statements, poor monsoon in the present year India is faced because of El Nino weather pattern caused by Pacific Ocean warming, which often enhances the risk in South Asian regions. The deficit rainfall has resulted in drought conditions in three decades, and only the fourth in more than a century. Scanty monsoon showers have affected the yields of summer-sown crops, especially in the south of the country and post withdrawal of the South-West monsoon from parts of western Rajasthan. Kharif season crop productivity prospects have turned doubtful. The possible impact on the Rabi season productivity also remains skeptical as of now. Considering these aspects, necessary actions from the government might help affected farmers as well as the nation’s economy.

Table available on request

Abhijeet Banerjee, Religare Commodities