Friday, August 20, 2010

Rains...and furrows of worry

Before the rains started, we were looking eagerly as to when the rains would start.  Hummingbird was also one of the avid watchers with a series of posts "Clouds have come ... can the rains be far behind?).

As expected rains came.  Unlike previous year(s), it has been raining quite heavily, almost all through the rainy season.  The last time, Hummingbird saw something like a clear sun, was on August 14, 2010.

It's the last sunset which I saw... and that was on Aug 14, 2010

Thereafter, it has continued to rain especially in the evenings.  The rainy season seems to be quite active all through the country.  Heavy rains have been predicted for the hilly regions of north-west (Business Line, August 19, 2010).

Raining... all over India!

There have been floods in Pakistan, Leh etc.  Looking at the India map and the cloud formation, it appears that more rains are ahead, this season. 

Business Line reports that the Climate Prediction Centre (CPC) of the US National Weather Services has assessed increased chances for above-normal rainfall for the region extending from South Asia to the Maritime Continent and this would bring the south-east coast of India and the Bay of Bengal under rain cover during this period.  The CPC has extended the wet weather outlook to the following week (August 24-30) as well, with the rain cover over India's south-east coast digging further into East-central India.

The prevailing La Nina condition would be more long-lasting than thought earlier and may continue until early 2012, according to updated forecasts from the Tokyo-based Research Institute for Global Change (RIGC) reports Business Line (La Nina may extend into early 2012, say Japanese experts, August 18, 2010).  This is likely to give above-normal rainfall in many parts of the world including India and predictions are that we may have a colder than normal winter.  

Today it rained again, quite heavily in the evening in Mumbai and visibility was poor as I left for home.

Heavy rains and poor visibility... (blackberry picture taken from a moving vehicle)

On the positive side, good rains have brought some respite from the drinking water crisis.  They have also brought cheer to automobile companies with improved sentiment and boosting auto sales.  On the agricultural side, while the kharif harvest could be better than in 2009, it may be far from bumper. And the price implications are self-evident, says Business Line in an Editorial (Furrows of worry, August 16, 2010).  With inflation raging uncontrolled, prospect of a food price linked boost to inflation is worrying.  Some excerpts from the Business Line editorial: 
The risks to crop size and quality will increase if the forecast of more rains in the rest of August and in September turns out to be correct.
Excessive rains, especially when crops near maturation, can be damaging. So, while the ensuing kharif harvest may be better than in 2009, it is unlikely to be anywhere near bumper.
The price implications of the emerging scenario are self-evident. Do not expect any miraculous relief from high food prices. There may be a slight softening of prices in October, with the harvest and arrival pressure; but the sentiment can quickly change for the worse.
The Government must be in a state of readiness to deploy the buffer stocks of rice and wheat for effective market intervention. The poor will need a credible and effective safety net in the form of access to food (fine cereals, pulses, cooking oil and sugar) at affordable prices.
Liberal, duty-free imports will have to continue. Policymakers must exercise abundant caution while considering changes in trade and tariff policies.
Globally too, grain prices have rallied to new highs because of weather aberrations in some regions, including the Black Sea port area and Canada's grain-bowl of Saskatchewan. This is raising the spectre of a 2007/2008-like food price situation. And such price cues can cause ripples here too.
Unlike in the past when droughts were more or less common, this year it has been raining... and raining almost regularly all through the season.  Hummingbird fervently hopes that farmers don't lose their crops due to unseasonal rains or too much rains.  It could lead to large scale misery, not only to the farming community but to the nation as a whole, as the inflation monster which has been dancing all around without any control so far, would get an added boost due to crop failure.