Despite a second consecutive deficient monsoon, India is poised for a record harvest


  • Total rainfall in India came in at 91% of the 50-year average between June to September, according to the Indian Meteorological Department, as opposed to predictions of 97%.
  • This was largely due to the fact that the northeastern parts of India, which usually receive higher rainfall than the rest of the country, experienced a shortage in rainfall.
  • However, despite the weak monsoon, India’s crop production this kharif season is expected to reach a record level of 141.6 million tonnes.

India’s rainfall this monsoon season fell short of forecasts for the second consecutive year, according to the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD). Total rains came in at 91% of the 50-year average between June to September, as opposed to predictions of 97%.

This was largely due to the fact that the northeastern parts of India, which usually receive higher rainfall than the rest of the country, experienced a shortage in rainfall. Infact, 69% of the country received a normal or excessive rainfall this monsoon season, with the flood-ravaged Kerala receiving 23% higher rainfall than normal. Gujarat had an uncharacteristically dry season, receiving 24% less rain than normal, while UP and Bihar had the most rain-deficient districts.

It bears mentioning that the 97% forecast for this year was reaffirmed despite a dry spell in the first half of the season. A normal monsoon involves rainfall in the range of 96%-104% of the 50-year or long-term average. A drought season occurs when rainfall is 90% of the long-term average or less.

A record harvest

The June-September period is particularly crucial for India’s agriculture industry as this season provides 70% of the country’s annual precipitation. However, despite the weak monsoon, India’s crop production this kharif season is expected to reach record levels.

As per government forecasts, production of summer crops should reach 141.6 million tonnes in 2018-19, a slight jump from last year’s record bounty of 140.7 million tonnes, owing to a 2% jump in the output of rice to nearly 100 million tonnes - which bodes well for exports. This is even more significant as there has been a slight shrinkage in the total acreage occupied by kharif crops this year.

The record harvest this year is largely due to the fact that farmers are prioritising crops that don’t require excessive rainfall. They’re choosing crops based on the existing moisture level in the soil, thereby making their harvest less dependent on the monsoon. According to research by the IMD, soil moisture was found to be adequate in most districts that received a rainfall of 20% less than the average. In addition, farmers are also planting crops that will fetch them better prices - for example, choosing soybeans over pulses - and factoring the monsoon less in their decisions.

A double-edged sword

However, despite the obvious cause for celebration, a record harvest can prove to be a drag on farmer incomes. A high level of food grain production translates into lower prices - which is great for households - but hurts farmers. If wholesale prices remain below the government’s minimum support prices, then it will have to step in and procure more grains from farmers than budgeted.
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