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Commodity Intelligence Report
August 3, 2015

Favorable Onset of India’s 2015 Monsoon Raises Prospects for Kharif Season Crops

India’s agriculture is heavily dependent on rain from the annual monsoon as nearly 53 percent of the total cropped area is rainfed. Even areas that are irrigated through canals, tanks, and groundwater are affected by the monsoon, especially when rainfall is low which results in lower reservoir and ground-water levels. The success or failure of the southwest monsoon in any year is, therefore, always crucial for crop production as well as for the Indian economy. The 2015 monsoon has so far been quite favorable; however, itis still too early in the growing season to make conclusive statements about the final 2015 monsoon performance
There are two major agricultural crop production seasons in India: kharif (monsoon season, June-September) and rabi (winter season, October-May). Most of the field crops are grown during the kharif season, including rice, cotton, soybean, sorghum, corn, sunflowers, pulses and millet. Wheat and barley are produced during the rabi season, as well as some corn and rice. The monsoon season typically accounts for more than 70 percent of the country's total annual rainfall, and most of the kharif season crops’ water requirement is dependent on the four-month long southwest monsoon rain.

Figure 1: Isochrones of the onset of the Southwest Monsoon, 2015 and normal. Source: India Meteorological Department (IMD).
The Government of India’s Meteorological Department (IMD) issues forecasts for the southwest monsoon rainfall over the country as a whole in two stages. The first for the season (June to September) is issued in April, and a second forecast is issued in June. The expected onset of the monsoon is on June 1st, starting from south India and progressing into the central and northern regions. The normal date for monsoon rainfall to cover the entire country is typically July 1 (Figure 1). IMD uses five categories to discuss the India monsoon: excess when the season total is 110 percent of the long term average (LTA), above normal 105-110, normal 95-105, below normal 90-95, and drought is declared when the rainfall is less than 90 percent of LTA. Favorable-average monsoon rainfall is approximately 890 mm (35 inches).
According to the IMD, the advance of the 2015 southwest monsoon into the major kharif cropping areas across the country was timely, well distributed, and above normal for the month of June. The 2015 monsoon has so far been quite favorable. Overall, the month of June received very good rainfall recorded at 128 percent. All geographical regions across India experienced surplus rain for the month. Central India received a 55 percent surplus, South Peninsular 30 percent, Northwest 27 percent, and East and Northeast 3 percent. (Figure 2).
However, it is still early in the season. June usually accounts for 19 percent of the total monsoon rainfall, with most of it coming in July and August (Figure 3). There are a wide range of forecasts for the eventual strength of the monsoon, and that is something farmers and agricultural experts need to wait and see. According to Skymet ( based on the last 10 years, the monsoon overall performance was rated good when the performance in June was satisfactory.

Figure 2: Precipitation anomalies during the period 31 May – 29 June, 2015. The major cotton and soybean production states, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh received better-than-normal rainfall resulting in favorable soil moisture conditions vital for timely planting and crop establishment. Source: NOAA/ National Weather Service, Center for Weather and Climate Prediction.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) forecasts cotton production at 29.5 million (480lb) bales, unchanged from last year; soybeans, 11.5 million metric tons, up 17.4 percent; rice, 104 million tons (milled), up 1.5 percent; sorghum, 5.5 million tons, up 14.8 percent; corn, 23.5 million tons, up 4.4 percent; sunflowerseed, 0.5 million tons, same as last year; and millet, 11 million tons, down 2.4 percent from last year. Planting progresses for the kharif crops during July across the country. The growing season still remains within the projected forecast, and this early in the season there are several factors shaping the current USDA crop outlook: the favorable (above normal) monsoon rainfall in June, the likelihood of increased plantings encouraged by early and widespread monsoon rainfall, continued timely distributed rains in July-August, higher government support prices agricultural price incentives, Minimum Support Prices, MSP) for most kharif crops, an increasing government capacity in procurement, and other incentives provided by local State governments. It is important to recognize that kharif crops are heavily dependent on in-season rainfall; therefore, the actual precipitation in July and August (Figure 3) will be very critical for USDA’s analysis.

Figure 3: Monthly distribution of the Southwest Monsoon in India. By June 25, 2015 the country has received 159.2 mm of rainfall (98% of expected), very close to the monthly average of 163 mm. June – July favorable soil moisture is vital for timely planting and crop establishment. Source: India Meteorological Department (IMD).
A review of the major kharif crops follows.
Soybeans: The main soybean producing states are Madhya Pradesh (53 percent of the national production), Maharashtra (34 percent), and Rajasthan (8 percent). Soybeans are grown exclusively during the kharif season under rainfed conditions. The optimal planting period is mid-June to mid-July. Soybean water requirements range between 450 - 700 mm (18 - 28 inches). The soybean crop is relatively sensitive to water deficit and excess water at all growth stages. Early and widespread monsoon rainfall is likely to encourage plantings and may result in a record area planted across the country.
Cotton: The major cotton production states are Gujarat (28 percent of the national production), Maharashtra (21 percent), Andhra Pradesh (15 percent), Madhya Pradesh (11 percent), Punjab (7 percent), and Haryana (6 percent). Cotton planting in the northern states of Punjab and Haryana typically begins in April-May and depends on irrigation water supplies.
Rice: The kharif season rice crop accounts for 85 percent of total production and is mainly grown in Punjab, Haryana, Utter Pradesh, South Peninsula, and Northeastern states. Kharif rice is planted March-September and harvested June-February. Rabi rice (irrigated) is planted November-February and harvested March-June.
Corn: About 83 percent of India’s corn is grown during the kharif season and the rest is grown during the rabi season. The major producing states are Rajasthan (13 percent of the national production), Karnataka (12 percent), Utter Pradesh (11 percent), Madhya Pradesh (11 percent), Andhra Pradesh (9 percent), Bihar (8 percent) and Gujarat (6 percent).
The patterns of monsoon rainfall during the last two seasons, 2013 and 2014, were a complete opposite of each other. The 2013 monsoon was characterized as too wet while the 2014 was too dry (Figure 4). Rainfall conditions during both seasons had adverse impacts on the overall productivity for most of the major kharif crops across the country. 2013 monsoon rainfall across India started a month early and was characterized as widespread with favorable-to-excess distribution. Most of the soybean growing areas of Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, and southeast Rajasthan received significantly above-normal precipitation in June, July and August. The overall cumulative rainfall was up 13 to 16 percent from the long-term-average. In July the rainfall departures from normal ranged from 38 percent higher than normal in North West India, 42 percent in Central India and 27 percent in the South Peninsula. The early and abundant rainfall boosted planted area; however, the continued excessive rainfall in Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, and Rajasthan resulted in significant poor crop growth and below average productivity, especially for soybeans.

Figure 4: Cumulative precipitation for Indore, Madhya Pradesh, India (WMO Station). The 2013 season was characterized as wet-to-excessively wet while the 2014 season was characterized as drier-than-normal. In both seasons the moisture regimes impaired timely planting, crop establishment and development. Source: Data World Meteorological Organization (WMO), Analysis USDA-FAS-Office of Global Analysis.
The 2014 southwest monsoon season was generally dry and seasonal rainfall over the country was deficient, 88 percent of long term average (LTA). The onset was significantly delayed (Figure 5) and the rainfall poorly distributed, with June and July recording extremely below average rainfall (Figure 4). This resulted in significant delays and slow planting rates for most kharif crops. In most cotton regions monsoon rainfall was delayed by more than two weeks (Figure 5). According to IMD the lowest season rainfall was in Northwest India (79 percent of LTA) and the highest over the South Peninsula. The large rainfall shortage during the second half of the monsoon season continued to contribute to the overall deficiency (about 43 percent of LTA). Favorable rainfall during the first half of September improved the overall situation, but it was too late to reverse the poor crop productivity. The season ended with a rainfall deficiency at 12 percent of LTA. According to the IMD the rainfall deficiency in June (42 percent of LTA) was comparable to 2009, which had the driest June for the recent decade.

Figure 5: Isochrones of the onset of the Southwest Monsoon, 2014 and normal. Source: India Meteorological Department (IMD)
USDA estimates 2015/16 India crop production for the major field crops: cotton, soybean, corn, millet, sorghum, sunflowerseed, and many more. The current crop outlooks are primarily based on the latest observations and reports of monsoon rainfall during the month of June, the high potential for increased sowing across the main growing regions, prevailing agricultural commodity price incentives, and are also based on long-term (historical) trend model analysis. As India’s agricultural season progresses, more information about actual precipitation amounts, vegetation vigor of the kharif crops, and other ancillary information will be used in the monthly updates from USDA. The planting window for most kharif crops extends through July to early August. End of July and early August planting progress and crop condition data will be very critical in forecasting the anticipated harvested area and expected yield. (For more information contact Dath K. Mita, PhD, USDA-Office of Global Analysis, International Production Assessment Division, at 202 720 7339,

Current USDA area and production estimates for grains and other agricultural commodities are available on IPAD's Agricultural Production page or at PSD Online.

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For more information contact Dath Mita | | (202) 720-7339
USDA-FAS, Office of Global Analysis

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