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India Met. Dept. predicts “normal monsoon”; weak El Nino a possibility

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by Sakthi Prasad , Content Manager
20 April 2017

Govindarajan Parthasarathy, Senior Research Analyst – Crops

El Nino - Indian Monsoon - Effects - 2017

The Indian monsoon arrives over the subcontinent following a period of intense summer heat. Owing to hot air circulation over the land, cooler monsoon winds from the Arabian Sea and Indian Ocean gets sucked into the subcontinent resulting in torrential downpour. Parched lands and drying rivers are rejuvenated by bountiful rains -- the season may last anywhere between four and five months.

In April, the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD), the national weather agency, said in its first seasonal update that India is likely to receive “normal” quantum of monsoon rains and the precipitation is likely to be about 96 percent of the Long Period Average (LPA). The rains were less than normal in 2016 and it is crucial that the country receives plentiful rains this year to alleviate agrarian distress.

While IMD has predicted that there is a higher likelihood of normal monsoon, it also indicates that conditions exist for weak El Nino phenomenon in the later part of the year. The El Nino weather phenomenon forms every two to seven years and is known to disrupt normal weather patterns in Asia Pacific and Latin America. El Nino, if it manifests, could exhibit its effects post July 2017, and become full-fledged between August-September. As a result of El Nino, the Southwest Monsoon could be affected and rainfall could be below normal.

The major crop producing regions which are likely to be affected by monsoon are Gujarat, Central Maharashtra, Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu and it is necessary to examine the potential impact of monsoon on key crops that are primarily grown in these regions. In general, less than normal monsoon lowers productivity of Kharif crops which are rain fed. On the other hand, Rabi crops are usually irrigated and hence are less adversely impacted.

States potentially vulnerable to El Nino

Major Crops


Groundnut, Cotton, Pulses (Tur and Urad)


Sugarcane, Pulses (Moong, Tur and Urad), Cotton


Coffee, Cardamom


Coffee, Cardamom

Tamil Nadu

Sugarcane, Cardamom, Groundnut, Rice


Indian Crop Update for the Upcoming Monsoon Season - 2017


Crop Segment


Global Market Share of India (%)


Impact on Crops






Rainfall in 2016 was normal which facilitated planting progress and a 11 percent rise in 2017 acreage. Thus, production is not likely to be affected greatly, especially with weakening El Nino conditions




A normal Southwest Monsoon, assuming that El Nino arrives too late to disrupt the rains, would allow rice production to reach 106 MMT from 44.5 mha, which is marginally lower than last year’s figures of 106.5 MMT. 40 percent of the rice crop is unirrigated, hence a  significant El Nino impact is forecasted to lower production further to 98-101 MMT, but this is unlikely due to weakening of El Nino





There is high domestic demand for cardamom, with only a minor portion exported. Kerala produces 70 percent of India’s Cardamom, with Karnataka and Tamil Nadu accounting for 20 and 10 percent respectively. Drought conditions currently exist in these states and potential El Nino impact could lead to a supply crunch, but this could be compensated by cheap imports from Guatemala





Sugar output is likely to be adversely affected by El Nino. In Tamil Nadu, which is a drought hit state and one of the main sugar producers, production is forecasted at 0.6 MMT in 2017/18, down from 1 MMT in 2016/17. Production in Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra can drop further depending on severity of impact. Sugar prices also exhibit volatility due to El Nino. But weakening El Nino implies the effects will not be severe




While El Nino could impact cotton production in affected states, this is likely to be offset by increased acreage in states such as Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan which could cause a rise in North Indian production by 20-25 percent





Any adverse impact on groundnut crop is likely to be offset by high supply in Gujarat from previous harvest and a modest export demand 




India’s coffee output was projected to drop by 12.06 percent to 5.1 million bags in 2016/17 due to drought in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. El Nino impact on monsoon in 2017 can cause a further drop in production and support domestic  prices


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