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It’s official – Monsoon is deficient & India stares at pricier pulses, cereals

It’s official – Monsoon is deficient & India stares at pricier pulses, cereals
  • This year, the Indian monsoon has been late, slow and erratic which has affected sowing and damaged crops due to flooding.
  • As per the latest updates, sowing of pulses and coarse cereals has been low – and they’re already facing double digit inflation.
  • A dry spell is expected due to El Nino conditions, say weather forecasts.
  • The reservoir levels are also lower this year, which can affect the next cropping season of Rabi.
It’s raining bad news for those hoping that India’s inflation will come down. After many crests and troughs, the year of 2023’s cumulative monsoon rainfall has been deficient by 8% with muted activity in August. Unlike last year, India’s reservoir levels are low too, threatening the next cropping season as well.

This year’s monsoon started on a dry note, with 10% deficiency in June, a slight rebound which saw 5% above normal in July. But August did not bring any cheer to a monsoon which also saw sharp inconsistencies in spatial distribution as well.

Short spurts of heavy rainfall have caused flooding in some parts of the country which damaged crops while deficient rainfall in other parts has affected the sowing activity, says a report by CareEdge.

A dry spell ahead

Major agricultural regions like eastern Gangetic plains which ranges from eastern UP, Bihar, Jharkhand, and Southern West Bengal; and Southern Karnataka, Madhya Maharashtra, Rayalaseema in Andhra Pradesh, and Kerala continue to witness a significant deficit in the cumulative rainfall.

Certain western regions like Saurashtra and Kutch, Western Rajasthan, and Himachal Pradesh continue to witness surplus rain.

As the monsoon ends in August, little will change for Indian monsoon. “In the coming days, IMD expects subdued rainfall in the large part of the country with the exception of Assam, Meghalaya and Arunachal Pradesh that will receive surplus rainfall,” says a report by Bank of Baroda. Moreover, weak to moderate El Nino conditions are expected to lead to a prolonged dry spell

The pulse of inflation

While the rice sowing has picked up for rice after an initial deficit, pulses, certain cereals, jute and cotton continue to be deficient. Pulses, oil seeds and coarse grains are the most rain dependent crops in India.

“Acreage of pulses has declined by 8.3% led by lower sowing of Arhar or tur dal (-5.1%) and urad (-13.8%) compared with last year. Oilseeds and cotton logged in lower sowing areas, with the exception of soybean and castor which has registered some improvement amongst oilseeds,” said Jahnavi Prabhakar, economist at Bank of Baroda.

The erratic progress of the southwest monsoon has resulted in a spike in the prices of the domestic food basket, which has a weightage of about 40% in the CPI inflation basket.

“A drop in yield due to irregular monsoon and a lower acreage can lead to a demand-supply mismatch, further increasing inflationary pressures in the food basket. Pulses and cereals are already witnessing double-digit inflation,” said CareEdge.


YoY change in sowing acreage

Coarse Cereals


















Jute and Mesta


All Crops


Source: Bank of Baroda as of August 25

What’s in the reservoir?

Last year, the reservoir levels as a percentage of total capacity was at 81% – but this year, it’s down to 64%. That’s 6% below the 10 year average, all thanks to the slow monsoon progress.

The reservoir level of six states — Maharashtra, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Odisha, West Bengal and Tamil Nadu remain the most vulnerable. Together, these most vulnerable states contribute nearly a third of India’s agriculture gross value added (GVA). Their area under irrigation is also lower than the national average.

“Lower rainfall and the resultant lower reservoir levels will have implications for the rabi crops that have a higher dependency on irrigation,” says a CareEdge report.


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