The Monsoon and the Indian Economic Growth By Dr. Bobby Srinivasan and Dr. Sudhakar Balachandran

Indian agriculture sector contributes approximately 15 percent to our GDP. We become jubilant even if we achieve 4 to 5 percent annual growth rate in this sector. That itself is a big challenge because we depend heavily on the timeliness and adequacy of the monsoon which generally starts in Kerala and then spreads across the country over time. There are number of issues we need to understand about the monsoon even if it turns out to be satisfactory.

  1. We require approximately 90-100 cm of rain every year. If it is below, we get draught conditions in several parts of the country. If it exceeds we have floods to worry about
  2. The rain has to occur at specific periods of time namely during the sowing season. Earlier and delayed rains are not of much help
  3. The rain has to occur in the right amount where the cultivation is taking place
  4. Besides the quantum of rain, the periodicity is equally important. Delayed rains are not helpful in cultivation
  5. The meteorological department has a sophisticated model to predict. Like all our predictive models, the error term tends to be very high
  6. The south west monsoon has set in Kerala on June 6th. This is 5 days later than the long term average of June 1
  7. Historically, the earliest data on monsoon arrival is May 11 (in 1918) and the latest is June 18 (1972)
  8. The rain bearing clouds has to make its way to the North before the end of June and by July it should cover most of the country
  9. To achieve this, strong winds blowing across the Arabian Sea is a sine qua non. Failure of strength means that the rains will not reach all the desired destination
  10. This year we are likely to experience EL Nino. That is, the waters in the central and eastern parts of the equatorial Pacific Ocean have been warming rapidly. This is expected to make the monsoon deficient.

Being prepared for the worst should be our government’s strategy while hoping for the best. Adequate buffer stock may be necessary to handle food shortages and the resulting inflation. Importing food should be a strong option. Commodity markets being what they are preparedness will help fight the speculators.

Finally, let us accept that running a country as big as India is an immense challenge. How can we guarantee that the monsoon will behave as per our expectations? However we as responsible citizens pray to the rain god to behave properly and on our part don’t hoard food grains thus causing the prices to go even higher. With our cooperation our government will be in a better position to handle any shortage situation. The message is “Show your support and help the Country”.

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