The government cut this year's forecast for monsoon rains to 88 per cent of the long-term average, Earth Sciences Minister Harsh Vardhan said today, raising fears of a drought in the country where nearly half of farmland lacks irrigation facilities.
The government in April had forecast monsoon rains at 93 per cent of the average. Rainfall of less than 90 per cent is considered to be a drought year. The latest prediction, however, has an error margin of four percentage points either way.
"Let's pray to God that the revised forecast does not come true," Dr Vardhan said.
The government expressed concerns about a below-par monsoon after the central bank, taking advantage of subdued inflation, cut interest rates for a third time this year today.
"Prices of essential commodities have already started rising and they will rise further if the monsoon remains deficient as forecast by the government," said Harish Galipelli, head of commodities and currencies at Inditrade Derivatives and Commodities.
"It's not good news for the farming community that is under distress. Last year their harvest was affected by poor rainfall and unseasonal rains. This year's drought will deepen their problems."
Anger is growing in the countryside after unseasonal rain and hailstorms ravaged farms earlier this year, pushing many debt-laden farmers to suicide.