Monsoon rain arrived on the coast of India’s southernmost state of Kerala on Thursday, bringing comfort to farmers after a more than a week wait, and marking the latest arrival in four years.
The monsoon, India’s $3 trillion economy’s lifeblood, provides about 70% of the rain required to hydrate agriculture and recharge reservoirs and aquifers. It also provides refuge from the worst of the summer heat.
In the absence of irrigation systems, nearly half of India’s farmland depends on the June-September rains and their late arrival could delay the planting of rice, cotton, corn, soybean and sugar cane, traders said.
“Southwest Monsoon has set in over Kerala today, the 8th June, 2023, against the normal date of 1st June,” the state-run India Meteorological Department (IMD) said in a statement.
This year, the IMD had expected the rains to arrive over the state’s coast on June 4 but the formation of severe cyclonic storm Biparjoy in the Arabian Sea delayed their onset.
The cyclone would gradually intensify further during next 18 hours, with winds gusting up to 170 km per hour, and would move approximately northwestwards during the next three days, the IMD said in a statement on Thursday.
It has advised fishing workers to return to the coast and avoid fishing in the central and northern Arabian Sea until June 14.
The IMD confirms the monsoon has begun after taking into account rainfall measured at weather stations in the southern state of Kerala and westerly wind speeds.
Conditions are favourable for the monsoon to advance into the central Arabian Sea and some parts of Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka states, the IMD said.
India received 57% less rainfall than average in the first week of June, weather office data showed on Wednesday, reflecting the delayed arrival of the wet weather.
The monsoon would make progress in coming days in the south but central and western areas could get little rain over the next two weeks, said a senior IMD official, who declined to be identified as he is not authorised to talk to media.
The weather office has forecast below average rains for June, with the monsoon expected to pick up later.
However, for the entire four-month season, the IMD has forecast an average amount of rain despite the formation of a possible El Nino weather phenomenon.
In the past, India has experienced below-average rainfall during most El Nino years, sometimes leading to severe droughts that destroyed crops and forced authorities to limit the export of some grains.