States told to have contingency plans ready, post-delay in onset in Kerala

Agriculture experts and officials are closely monitoring the advance of the southwest monsoon, which is crucial not only for the important summer kharif crop but also the socio-economic wellbeing of the country.

There are apprehensions that with farm growth having slowed down in the pre-wheat harvest quarter to 1.7 per cent, if the monsoon were to be deficient, then the country's crisis will deepen.

“We are closely monitoring the situation,” Agriculture Secretary Ashish Bahuguna told The Hindu. “We hope for a normal monsoon but are prepared to face any eventuality.”

The delay of five days in the onset of monsoon over Kerala and its gingerly movement has made Central government officials sit up and sound the State governments to be ready with contingency plans that advise farmers on what seeds to sow, the cropping methodology to adopt in scarce conditions, how to control unwanted pests and take care of cattle, fodder and feed.

“The Ministry has plans ready for various agro-ecologies and can advise farmers on delayed monsoon sowing, deficient rains, arid, semi-arid and drought-prone zones,” Mr. Bahuguna said.

Although the India Meteorological Department (IMD) has forecast the qualitative monsoon season rainfall likely to be 99 per cent of the Long Period Average with a model error of 5 per cent either way, earlier predictions by some international scientists about a below normal monsoon in South Asia is making the people concerned uncomfortable, despite the country being blessed with overflowing granaries.

“Yes, there is some cause for concern but not a great deal,” said Planning Commission Member (Agriculture) Abhijit Sen, “and there is no reason to ask farmers not to sow. They must be prepared to sow in time.”

According to him, the monsoon was delayed and the El Nino effect might kick off in August, but the rain is most likely to be normal in July, the most crucial month.