After two consecutive monsoon seasons of deficient rainfall, the Economic Survey believes there is a chance that the 2016 season might turn out to be good for Indian agriculture.
The El Nino effect, associated with drought is usually followed by the opposite La Nina effect. The 2015 El Nino was the strongest since 1997.
‘The possibility of this being repeated in 2016 after the second strongest El Nino on record cannot be ruled out.’ The Survey says average agricultural growth in eight La Nina years was 8.4 percent* compared to three percent average growth for the period 1981-82 to 2015-16.
El Nino effect is the abnormal warming of the waters of the Pacific near Ecuador and Peru.
Rainfall between last June and last September was 14 percent less than the long period average at a national level. In Bihar there was a deficiency of 28 percent. In Marathwada, it was minus 40 percent. There was drought also in Bundelkhand. Several districts of Uttar Pradesh were declared drought-affected.
La Nina is the abnormal cooling of sea surface waters along the tropical west coast of South America. It causes normal-to-excess monsoons in India ─ the result of atmospheric convection activity shifting to the north of Australia.
Since 1950 there have been 14 La Ninas and 22 El Ninos. Nine La Ninas have followed the 21 El Ninos prior to the one in 2015, according to the Economic Survey.
The 2015 El Nino was quite intense. It had an Oceanic Nino Index (ONI) value of 2.3 degrees Celsius for November 2015-January 2016. ONI compares east-central Pacific Ocean surface temperatures to their long-term average and is used by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to identify El Nino events.
The 2015 El Nino, the Survey says, lasted roughly from April 1997 to Jun 1998. The strongest El Nino years were 1997-98, 1972-73, 2009-10, 1986-87 and 1987-88, ranked in order of strength. The last four produced droughts in India. Average agricultural growth in El Nino years between 1981-82 and 2015-16, according to the Survey, was (-) 2.1 percent compared to the period average of 3 percent. The El Nino years mentioned above were followed by La Nina resulting in bumper harvests.
*1982-83, 1986-87, 1987-88, 1991-92, 1997-98, 2002-03, 2009-10 ad 2015-16.
(Top photo: Economic Survey team, with Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and Chief Economic Adviser Arvind Subramanian. Courtesy: Press Information Bureau)