Southwest monsoon arrives three days ahead of schedule in Kerala

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Southwest monsoon, the lifeline for millions of farmers across the country, hit the Kerala coast on Tuesday, three days ahead of its scheduled arrival date, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) said.

The early arrival of monsoon augurs well for the sowing of Kharif crops, but much of that will depend on how the rains progress from here onwards.

"The conditions are favorable for further advance of Southwest Monsoon into some parts of central Arabian Sea, remaining parts of Kerala, some parts of coastal and south interior Karnataka, some more parts of East and Central and northeast Bay of Bengal, and some parts of northeastern states during next 48 hours," the IMD said in a statement announcing the formal entry of monsoon over Kerala and the conditions that it has fulfilled.

Monday, private weather forecasting agency Skymet had announced the arrival of southwest monsoon over Kerala. IMD had forecast the onset of Monsoon on May 29. The forecast was with a model error of plus and minus four days.

Monsoon delivers about 70 per cent of India's annual rainfall and is the lifeline of its $2.5 trillion economy, spurring farm output and boosting rural spending on items ranging from gold to cars, motorcycles and refrigerators.

The early arrival of monsoon rains typically enables farmers to bring forward sowing of crops such as rice, sugar cane, corn, cotton and soybeans because nearly half the country's farmland lacks irrigation.

A spell of roughly average rains could help keep a lid on inflation, potentially tempting Prime Minister Narendra Modi to bring forward a general election due in May 2019. In 2017, monsoon rains were 95 per cent of the long-term average compared to forecasts of 98 per cent.

Before receiving average rains in 2016, India suffered back-to-back drought years for only the fourth time in more than a century, hurting incomes and driving some farmers to suicide.

Average monsoon rainfall would help India retain its position as the world's top rice exporter, but could further stoke a glut in supply of sugar. But, a timely onset of monsoon over Kerala does not guarantee its normal progress over other parts of the country and also overall performance of the rains.

The met department in its first forecast of monsoon for 2018 released last month predicted that monsoon is expected to be 'normal', brightening chances of recovery in the farm sector, which has seen fluctuating growth rates in the first four years.

IMD said that rainfall in June to September period is expected to be at 97 per cent of the Long Period Average (LPA) with a model error of plus and minus 5 per cent. LPA is the average rainfall across the country from 1951-2000 estimated to be 89 centimetres. IMD said there is 42 per cent chance of rainfall this year to be normal, while 30 per cent probability of it being below normal.

Earlier, Private weather forecasting agency, Skynet also said that monsoon 2018 it is expected to be 'normal'. Skymet said that rains this year could be 100 per cent of the Long Period Average (LPA) with a model error of plus and minus 5 per cent. Skymet also said that East and North-East India along with parts of Southern India might get slightly 'below normal' rains in 2018, while the agriculturally crucial regions of North and Central India are expected to get 'normal' to 'excess' rains in 2018.

IMD would come out with a region-wise forecast in June along with its second update.