India struggles to perfect art of monsoon forecasting

For about 600 million Indians who are dependent on farming, there is a direct correlation between ample rains and their disposable incomes, explaining the host of superstitions that survive around bringing rains, such as women ploughing fields naked and frog ‘marriages’.

NEW DELHI – TECHNOLOGICAL wizardry may have improved forecasting of the crucial monsoon rains in India, but success still remains, at best, patchy, making it tough for farmers to plan crops and meet demand in the trillion-dollar economy.

This year, the country has forecast a normal monsoon. In theory, that should mean higher farm output, which could tame food prices and help persuade the government to ease curbs on rice and wheat exports, benefiting other Asian economies that are struggling with food shortages.

In reality, since 1994, India’s weather office has only managed to forecast the June-September monsoon outcome correctly five times, discounting an error band of +/-5 per cent, while on seven occasions the extent of error touched double digit, Deutsche Bank analysts said in a research report.

From the world’s top producer and consumer of a range of commodities like sugar and grains, such uncertainties have huge implications for global commodities markets.

For about 600 million Indians who are dependent on farming, there is a direct correlation between ample rains and their disposable incomes, explaining the host of superstitions that survive around bringing rains, such as women ploughing fields naked and frog ‘marriages’.

‘Current capabilities to forecast monsoon are not sufficient,’ Shailesh Nayak, the top civil servant in the ministry of earth sciences which controls the country’s weather office, told Reuters. — REUTERS

India struggles to perfect art of monsoon forecasting

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