Delayed monsoon rains are threatening India’s huge agricultural sector and endangering the economic recovery that has been crumbling due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The monsoon rise in the Indian subcontinent has stalled, and farmers in the fertile northern and central states (such as Punjab, Haryana, and parts of Madhya Pradesh) are anxiously waiting for rain.

“Due to the lack of monsoon, the crops are like on a hospital ventilator,” said Kedar Sirohi, leader of the Aam Kisan Union in Madhya Pradesh or the Common Farmers Union.

He said farmers in his state with limited irrigation facilities planted soybeans, cotton, sorghum, and beans almost three weeks ago, but their seedlings are withering. “We need to rain well in four to five days, otherwise we will lose 30% to 40% of our production,” he added.

Half of India’s 1.4 billion people depend on agriculture, which makes the monsoon vital not only to their livelihoods but also to the wider economy. The preliminary forecast of the rainy season from June to September is a rare bright spot. Disastrous second wave Of epidemics.

After the economy contracted by 7.3% in 2020, the International Monetary Fund predicted in April that it will grow by 12.5% ​​this year.But the forecast has Sharp drop Since the recent Covid surge.

Although some areas of the country have abundant or even heavy rainfall, large areas of central and northern India are still dry. Punjab is one of the country’s largest producers of rice and other staple foods, with almost no rainfall.

The Indian Meteorological Department expects rainfall in these areas to drop soon. But Giriraj Amarnath, a researcher at the International Water Management Institute, said that further delays will lead to a decline in crop yields.

“This will definitely have an impact on the economy,” he said. “The production, pricing and export of these crops… will generate ripples through the value chain from there.”

The monsoon supplies more than two-thirds of India’s rainfall. According to the latest data from the World Bank, as of 2015, less than 40% of India’s agricultural land was irrigated, and the rest was completely dependent on rainwater.

“For farmers, this is a time of anxiety,” admitted Bharat Krishak Samaj or Ajay Vir Jakhar, chairman of the Indian Farmers Forum. He estimated that the monsoon was one week to ten days late.

“Irrigation water cannot fully compensate for rainwater,” he said, adding that farmers may reduce the crops they plant.

“You need moisture in the soil and the air. This is a complete ecosystem. When water falls from the sky, it helps plants differently than water drawn from the ground.”

Scientists warn that climate change is destabilizing the monsoon, with serious consequences for hundreds of millions of people who depend on the monsoon. Research by the Indian government shows that extreme events such as torrential rains, floods, and droughts are increasing.

Avantika Goswami of the nonprofit Center for Science and Environment says this makes South Asia “very vulnerable compared to the rest of the world”.

A good monsoon season last year is crucial for India to survive Historic economic contraction After a strict lockdown for several months.

The bumper harvest provided employment opportunities for returning migrant workers who lost their jobs in cities and stimulated all consumption motorcycle To consumer goods.

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