In what could be good news for millions of farmers, the weatherman on Wednesday said India could experience good monsoon this season after a year of drought that resulted in the loss of 16 million tonnes of food grain.

“Overall we expect a good monsoon this year,” Ajit Tyagi, Director General, Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) told PTI here.

Mr. Tyagi met Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar, who reviewed the monsoon situation in the country against the backdrop of cyclone Phet threatening the progress of the rainy season.

Experts here believe that the severe cyclone churning up the Arabian Sea could have little effect on the monsoon as they forecast building up of weather patterns favourable to the annual rains.

“We expect normal monsoon with 98 per cent (of the long period average of 89 cm) as projected earlier. There is no change,” Mr. Tyagi said when asked about the rainfall this season.

The seasonal rains hit Kerala on May 31, as forecast by the IMD. As an effect of the cyclone, monsoon is expected to cover coastal parts of Kerala, Karnataka and Maharashtra while the interior parts of the peninsula are expected to receive monsoon rains in the next spell.

“Rainfall will pick up in Kerala from June 5 onwards,” he said.

Agriculture Secretary P.K. Basu said that the monsoon has stopped in the tracks due to cyclone Phet which is expected to have landfall in coastal Pakistan and adjoining Gujarat on Friday.

“Monsoon is seen progressing from June 5 towards Karnataka. South-West monsoon has paused due to cyclone. There is no cause of concern as of now rains are good,” Mr. Basu said.

Monsoon rains, considered the lifeline of Indian agriculture that powers the trillion-dollar economy. It is vital for kharif crops such as paddy, sugarcane, oilseeds and pulses.

Last year, almost half of the country faced severe drought due to failure of monsoon. As a result, India’s food grain production declined to 218.19 million tonnes in 2009-10 crop year from record 234.47 million tonnes in the previous year.

In April, the IMD had forecast normal monsoon rains for the season beginning June 1.

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