India set to see average monsoon rains this year

Rain drops are seen on crops before they are harvested in Burha Mayong village, about 50 kilometers (31 miles) east of Gauhati, India, May 25, 2015. (AP)
Updated 16 April 2019

India set to see average monsoon rains this year

  • Good rains will spur the planting of crops such as rice, corn, cane, cotton and soybeans

NEW DELHI: India is likely to see average monsoon rains this year, the state-run weather office said on Monday, which should support agricultural production and economic growth in Asia’s third-biggest economy, where half of the farmland lacks irrigation.
Monsoon rainfall is expected to be 96 percent of the long-term average, M. Rajeevan, secretary at the Ministry of Earth Sciences, told a news conference.
The India Meteorological Department (IMD) defines average, or normal, rainfall as between 96 percent and 104 percent of a 50-year average of 89 centimeters for the entire four-month season beginning June.
“Overall, the country is expected to have well distributed rainfall scenario during the 2019 monsoon season, which will be beneficial to farmers in the country during the ensuing Kharif (summer-planting) season,” the IMD said in its forecast.
Skymet, the country’s only private weather forecasting agency, earlier this month forecast rainfall could be below normal this year.
Monsoon rains, the lifeblood for India’s farm-dependent $2.6 trillion economy, arrive on the southern tip of Kerala state around June 1 and retreat from the desert state of Rajasthan by September.
After a wet spell, sowing of summer-sown crops gets off to a strong start, boosting crop yields and output which in turn raises rural incomes and usually lifts consumer spending in India.
If plentiful monsoon rains lift agricultural production this year, that could keep food prices under control. Subdued overall inflation could also add to pressure on India’s central bank to cut interest rates.
“IMD’s prelim forecast, showing near-normal and well distributed rainfall, will bode well for near-term food inflation,” said Madhavi Arora, lead economist at Edelweiss Securities, FX and Rates.
The next policy review by India’s central bank is scheduled for June 6, after the country’s election. Millions of Indians are casting their votes in a mammoth general election, spread over seven weeks.
On the downside, higher production could mean farmers continue to get hit by low crop prices, a major cause for concern in rural India, where most Indians live, in the past two years.
After falling for five straight months, retail food prices in India rose 0.30 percent in March from a year earlier.
Last month, a senior IMD official told Reuters that this year’s monsoon was likely to be robust and healthy provided there wasn’t a surprise El Nino phenomenon.
“El Nino is weakening and we expect that El Nino will get weakened further. There is no reason to be worried about El Nino,” Rajeevan said.
A strong El Nino, marked by a warming of the sea surface on the Pacific Ocean, can cause severe drought in Australia, Southeast Asia and India, while drenching other parts of the world such as the US Midwest and Brazil in rains.
The emergence of a strong El Nino triggered back-to-back droughts in 2014 and 2015, for only the fourth time in over a century, driving some Indian farmers to penury and suicide.

ECONOMIC GROWTH
Good rains will spur the planting of crops such as rice, corn, cane, cotton and soybeans.
Stronger agricultural production would help support India’s economy. It is still the world’s fastest-growing major economy, but annual growth slowed to 6.6 percent in the December quarter, from 7.0 percent in the previous period and the slowest in five quarters.
The monsoon usually covers the half of the country in the first 15 days. The rains reach central India’s soybean areas by the third week of June and western cotton-growing areas by the first week of July.
India’s weather office will update its forecast in the first week of June.
However, on average, the IMD has forecast accurately only once every five years over the past two decades, even after taking into account an error band of plus or minus 5 percentage points.


Bosnia atrocity families take Dutch state to European court

Updated 31 min 11 sec ago

Bosnia atrocity families take Dutch state to European court

  • The Mothers of Srebrenica has accused the Netherlands of failure to protect the men and boys against Bosnian Serb forces
  • The Dutch Supreme Court ruled last year that the Netherlands bore very limited responsibility for the massacre

THE HAGUE: An association of women who lost relatives in the 1995 Srebrenica massacre of nearly 8,000 Muslims on Monday filed a case in the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) against the Netherlands.
The Mothers of Srebenica has accused the Netherlands of failure to protect the men and boys against Bosnian Serb forces in what became the worst atrocity on European soil since World War II.
Representing families of the slaughtered, the group blames Dutch peacekeepers deployed in Srebrenica just a few months before the end of the Bosnian war.
Bosnian Serbs brushed aside the lightly armed “Dutchbat” blue helmets in a “safe area” where thousands of Muslims from surrounding villages had gathered.
“The mothers of Srebrenica have today filed a case against the Dutch state at the ECHR in Strasbourg,” lawyers Marco Gerritsen Simon van der Sluijs said in a statement, accusing the Netherlands of “not taking sufficient measures to protect” the population.
The case has been making its way through the Dutch courts since 2007, but has met little success.
The Dutch Supreme Court ruled last year that the Netherlands bore “very limited” responsibility for the massacre.
Lawyers for the victims’ group said that was a “totally arbitrary decision.”
“According to the Supreme Court, these men would probably have been killed whatever happened, even if they had been authorized to remain in the compound. There was however no factual debate about their chances of survival,” the lawyers wrote on Monday.
“That violates article 6 of the ECHR which stipulates the right to a fair trial.”
More than 100,000 people died and some 2.2 million others were uprooted in the 1992-95 conflict that followed the break up of the former Yugoslavia in 1991.