The much-awaited monsoons are expected to arrive on time and will hit Kerala on June 1, but the rainfall may be less than normal. In fact, there have been several forecasts of below-normal monsoons this year due to the El Nino effect, prompting the government to prepare a contingency plan and step up crop insurance for farmers. The contingency plan would cover 580 districts that may witness monsoon deficit, while the Agriculture Ministry is also thinking of steps to popularise crop insurance schemes among the farmers.
The timely arrival of south-west monsoon is crucial for kharif (summer) crops like paddy and a monsoon deficit may affect the rice output. After a poor monsoon in 2014, the untimely rains during March-April this year have already put farmers in distress, resulting in somecases of farmer suicides. While preparing for below-average rains, the Agriculture Ministry is working hard to minimise the impact of weak monsoon on kharif crops like rice and the resulting food inflation. The state governments have been asked to be ready to implement the contingency plan in 580 districts.
The Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) is scheduled to announce on May 15 the likely date of monsoon onset and its further progress. Private weather forecaster Skymet will also release its monsoon update around the same time. Agriculture, which contributes only 15 per cent to India's Gross Domestic Product (GDP) but employs about 60 per cent of population, is heavily dependent on monsoon as just 40 per cent of the cultivated area is under irrigation.