Monsoon rains seen ‘below normal’ in east, ‘normal’ in west

Kathmandu , May 20th 2019

Monsoon rains in Nepal’s key crops producing regions are expected to be “below normal” this year, said the report of South Asian Climate Outlook Forum, dampening prospects of higher farm output after three consecutive years of robust economic growth driven mainly by the farm sector.

Experts from South Asian countries said Nepal’s monsoon rainfalls are likely to be a mix of two patterns this year - below normal in Provinces 1, 2, 3 and 5 and normal in other provinces, according to the consensus statement of the 14th session of the South Asian Climate Outlook Forum released last month.
But weathermen said it’s not a worrying sign as below normal usually does not mean a drought-like situation. The below normal rainfall factor depends on the time of rainfall and paddy plantation time.

That means, if rainfall occurs during the key paddy plantation period, its effect will not be significant on the agriculture sector’s growth, they said.

Normally, in Nepal, monsoon begins on June 10 and lasts till September 23. Nearly 75 percent of the annual rainfall occurs during monsoon and sustains the livelihood of 66 percent of Nepal’s population that is dependent on agriculture.

This year, the mixed pattern of monsoon has been predicted after three consecutive years of normal monsoon.

“At least four Provinces will witness below normal monsoon rainfall this year and these areas are likely to be at higher risk of being rain deficient. But this doesn’t mean a drought-like situation,” said senior meteorologist Barun Poudel. “Obviously, there will be variability in rainfall but if rainfall occurs during the key paddy plantation time, its effect will not be as severe.”

The forecast has a margin error of 4-5 percent. Anything less than 90 percent is termed a ‘deficient’ monsoon, while 90-96 percent is considered ‘below normal’.

An average between 104 and 110 is stated ‘above normal’ and anything beyond 110 is referred to as ‘excess’.

According to Poudel, farmers should not worry as below normal rainfall is still sufficient for paddy crop plantation and growth if there is rainfall at key plantation and plant growth period.

The outlook suggests that most parts of South Asia are likely to experience normal rainfall during the 2019 southwest monsoon season (June– September). Some northern parts of the region, eastern coastal areas of Peninsular India, Sri Lanka, southern parts of Myanmar, and most parts of Andaman Nicobar Islands are likely to experience above normal rainfall.

Below-normal rainfall is likely over some areas of southern Pakistan, some areas along the west coast of Peninsular India, northern parts of central India and some areas of the north-eastern part of the region. Normal rainfall is likely over remaining areas.

The forum held its meeting in Kathmandu from April 18-23 and was attended by experts from South Asian countries.

The monsoon is the lifeblood of Nepal’s Rs3-trillion economy which is farm-dependent, as nearly two-thirds of the farmlands is rain-fed.

Economist Keshav Acharya said the monsoon has a direct and multiplier impact on the country’s economic growth. A normal monsoon boosts farm output and farmers income and keeps food inflation in balance, he said, adding that a normal monsoon has a positive impact on hydropower projects, irrigation, drinking water and groundwater recharge.

The country has witnessed normal monsoon for three consecutive years, propelling the country to record growth rates of over six percent for three years in a row.

In the fiscal year 2016-17, the country’s economy-or the Gross Domestic Product (GDP)-expanded by 7.74 percent-the highest since fiscal year 1993-94.

An above-normal monsoon recorded in 2016-17 helped Nepal secure the biggest paddy harvest which jumped 21.66 percent to 5.23 million tonnes, bucking the trend of two consecutive years of falling harvests triggered by drought.

The economy grew by 6.3 percent in the following year 2017-18, according to the Central Bureau of Statistics. In 2017-18, Nepal’s paddy output totalled 5.15 million tonnes, down 1.49 percent from the 2016-17 bumper harvest, mostly on account of the August floods in the southern Tarai plains, known as the country’s food basket. But the harvest was second biggest despite the damage caused by the floods.

This fiscal year, the country’s economy is projected to grow by 6.81 percent. According to the bureau, growth of the current fiscal year is basically driven by the agriculture sector, also known as the primary sector, whose growth rate is expected to remain at 5.1 percent this fiscal year owing to good climate. Nepal’s paddy harvest is expected to hit a record high of 5.61 million tonnes this fiscal year. Nepal witnessed a normal monsoon in 2016 only after two back-to-back poor monsoons in 2014 and 2015 that affected the overall growth in the country.

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