NEW DELHI — This year's monsoon may arrive on India's southern Kerala coast in the next five days as the rains have missed their normal start date of June 1, weather officials said on Monday.
The annual rainy season is vital for India as half its cropland lacks irrigation. The farm sector accounts for 15 percent of India's $2 trillion economy.
The rains support two-thirds of India's 1.25 billion population who live in rural areas and rely on farming.
After arriving over the Kerala coast, the monsoon starts its four-month long season.
"We hope conditions will become favourable for the monsoon onset over the Kerala coast on around June 5," said B.P. Yadav, director of the India Meteorological Department (IMD).
Last month, the weather office had forecast that the monsoon would arrive on the Kerala coast on May 30, give or take four days.
The monsoon arrived last year on June 6, a day after the forecast and five days after the usual date, and the season ended with deficient rains that trimmed grain output.
The farm ministry has put in place contingency plans for about 580 districts to meet any exigencies arising due to a delay in the annual rains.
The monsoon typically covers half of the country by mid-June, and the entire country by mid-July, helping farmers to plant summer crops such as rice, soybean, cane and cotton.
"Contingency plans contain specific advisory to meet delay or deficiency in rains," said K.K. Singh, head of the agromet division of the weather office.
In April, the weather office had forecast less than usual rainfall due to El Nino, an event marked by warming of the sea surface water in the Pacific Ocean that can lead to droughts in Asian countries like Australia and India.
A research model of the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology predicts a delay in the advance of the rains towards soybean areas of central India by about a week due to the late start.