Tardy Monsoon Threatens Harvest

22300078_sKARNATAKA, India – July’s monsoon makes or breaks India’s tea harvest as it is summer, not spring that accounts for the greatest volume of production.

A shortage of rain in early spring already depressed yields by 25% and created a scarcity of high quality first flush teas. May rains helped gardens in Assam recover where the second flush was below normal but acceptable. Assam received heavy rains over the weekend which is a promising sign.

“Since the beginning of 2014 adverse weather conditions have been playing havoc on tea crops in both Assam and North Bengal.” according to the Indian Tea Association (ITA).

The dry and drought conditions will result in depressing future crop outlook, according to ITA. In addition to reducing number of new buds a shortage of rain increases the cost of irrigation, delays use of fertilizers and subjects the plants to pest infestation. In extreme heat the tea plants defoliate and may die, all of which results in significant crop losses, further escalating the cost of production.

July and August are the critical months and meteorlogists are optimistic the monsoon will arrive by July 5. Progress of the Southwest Monsoon has been slow. In normal years the annual rainfall event washes over India in waves beginning the the far southern tip of the country.

“June has been this dry only thrice in the past 100 years,” according to reports in the Economic Times.

This year the monsoon stalled for 12 days in the south and India’s rain deficit increased to 42% according to the newspaper. Only 9% percent of the country has seen normal rainfall and in some regions the deficit is 60% to 75% below normal.

Indian Express reports “Northwest India is the worst hit receiving only 13.6 mm as compared to 28.7 mm, which is 53% less than the normal rainfall. Central India received 31.7 mm, which is 52% than the normal rainfall of 66.2 mm. Similar is the case with east and northeast India. It received 100.1 mm of rainfall as compared to normal rainfall of 191.2 mm, which is down 27%.

Large parts of the Southern peninsula like Kerala, coastal Karnataka, Goa and Maharashtra, Telangana and Vidharba region have received deficient rainfall. Coastal Andhra Pradesh, Jharkhand, Odisha, Chhattisgarh and Marathwada region of Maharashtra have received scanty rainfall.

The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) added to a hopeful outcome by revising the arrival of El Nino, a complex phenomenon involving changes in wind patterns due to variations in sea temperature that generally weaken India’s monsoon. Last week the WMO confirmed there is an 80% chance of an El Nino this year but revised its arrival to October or November, well after the June-September monsoon retreats.

“Often, June turns out to be a deficient year. June rainfall is highly variable. Months of July and August give the main contribution to seasonal total rainfall as there are often chances of revival of monsoon in July and August,” AK Jaswal, deputy D-G of meteorology, research, told the Economic Times.

India’s 85 main reservoirs, which are usually depleted by the time the monsoon arrives, were filled to 25% of their capacity in late June, better than the level of 24% at this time last year, and significantly more than the 10-year average of 19%.

Source: Business Standard, Economic Times, Indian Express