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Timing of rain is critical, say Indian farmers

Ravi Chandran, a farmer in Tamil Nadu in India, is worried about the strength of the monsoon rains this season.
An Indian farmer sprays fertilizer in the paddy fields at Medak district, some 60 kilometres from Hyderabad on July 31, 2014. The Indian economy, which is still considered as an agriculture economy, is dependent on the amount of monsoon rains as a large part of the agricultural produce comes from the monsoon fed crops. NOAH SEELAM / AFP
An Indian farmer sprays fertilizer in the paddy fields at Medak district, some 60 kilometres from Hyderabad on July 31, 2014. The Indian economy, which is still considered as an agriculture economy, is dependent on the amount of monsoon rains as a large part of the agricultural produce comes from the monsoon fed crops. NOAH SEELAM / AFP

Ravi Chandran, a farmer in Tamil Nadu in India, is worried about the strength of the monsoon rains this season.

“Monsoon is our lifeline,” he says. “So far the south-west monsoon is subnormal. We need more rain in catchment areas so that our reservoirs are full.”

There should have been enough water by now, but weak rainfall over the past few weeks means that there is not enough for irrigation, delaying the sowing of crops, explains Mr Chandran, who has been farming for 30 years.

“If the monsoon revives, there is every likelihood that the dam would be opened for irrigation in another 10 to 15 days,” he says. “Further delay will harm.”

He says that Tamil Nadu receives a lot of its rain during the north-east monsoon, between October and December, but farmers in the area are also dependent on the south-west monsoon during June to September, when kharif, or summer crops are grown.

“If water is released late, sowing of rice in our area will also be delayed,” Mr Chandran says. “So by the time the crop establishes, north-east monsoon would set. The transplanted young rice seedling will be submerged during north-east monsoon.”

While the monsoon has been intensifying in recent days, he says that the area where he farms is in a “rain shadow” region.

Heavy rainfall over the coming weeks will be crucial to Mr Chandran and farmers across India.

“Production depends not just on the quantum of rainfall but also its timing and distribution,” according to Crisil. Punjab, Haryana, and Gujarat are the states that have the highest deficiency in rainfall, its research shows.

“Even as the all-India deficiency has come down to 24 per cent of normal from over 40 per cent in June, such a national average doesn’t reveal much about the regional impact,” Crisil said. Spatial distribution is what determines which crops are likely to be affected.”

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Updated: August 2, 2014 04:00 AM

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