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El Nino possibility: Experts say no pressing panic button yet

April 24, 2014 18:43 IST

Global warmingWith IMD forecasting below normal monsoon this year because of a possible El Nino factor, agriculture experts on Thursday advised the government not to press the panic button yet.

"We need to be on alert and be prepared but not get panic because the country had escaped El Nino without any scratch way back in 1997," former chief of Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices Ashok Gulati told PTI.

"The monsoon seasonal rainfall is likely to be 95 per cent of the Long Period average with an error of plus or minus 5 per cent," Indian Meteorological Department said in a statement.

Officials in the weather department said the monsoon is expected to be below normal because of the El-Nino effect.

Gulati, who is now chair-professor at think-tank ICRIER, said below normal rain does not mean there will be drought.

"We have to see how would be the distribution of rain across the country."

El Nino refers to the warmer-than-average sea surface temperature in the central and eastern tropical Pacific Ocean.

This condition occurs every 4-12 years and had last impacted India's monsoon in 2009, leading to the worst drought in almost four decades.

Crisil Chief Economist D K Joshi said: "No doubt, the IMD forecast is not encouraging, but I won't press the panic button now as there is higher probability of normal monsoon." "Below normal monsoon is not a drought year.

“What matter is how well rainfall is distributed across the country.

“We need to be concerned and be prepared so that we are not taken by surprise," he added.

The four-month long long monsoon starting June is crucial for kharif crops such as rice, soyabean, cotton and maize because almost 60 per cent of the farm land in the country is rainfed.

Gulati said as per the Skymet forecast, rainfall in the country's north west and western regions would be hit badly if El Nino occurs. "If it (El Nino) affects rain in the western region, oilseeds, cotton, pulses and onion crops would be affected.

“The north-west region may not face much problem as it is irrigated," he added.

Harish Galipelli, Head of Commodities and Currencies with JRG Wealth Management said if the rainfall spread is scattered then it will have impact on agriculture yields and production, thereby prices.

Australian Bureau of Meteorology and private forecaster Skymet have also predicted a likelihood of El Nino factor hitting monsoon in India.

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