Normal monsoon likely this year, says Sascof

May 12, 2017

The Kathmandu Post, Sangam Prasain, 12th May 2017, Kathmandu

Nepal is likely to get a ‘normal’ monsoon, signaling hopes of good harvests of key crops in 2017-18 in a country largely dependent on agriculture, as per the consensus statement of the 10th session of the South Asian Climate Outlook Forum (Sascof) released last month.

As the farm sector makes up about 33 percent of the more than Rs2 trillion economy, the forecast indicates that Nepal’s economic growth rate will match this fiscal year’s projected growth.

The country is expected to achieve a 23-year-high economic growth rate of 6.9 percent this fiscal year ending mid-July on the back of a good monsoon which has increased agricultural output, according to the Central Bureau of Statistics. 

According to the Sascof, except the Far Western Region, the probability of the monsoon in the rest of the country is normal. The forum was held in Bhutan from April 24-26.

“Nepal will see normal rains this monsoon, which will help the country’s agriculture in particular,” said Mani Ratna Shakya, a senior meteorologist. 

The monsoon that lasts roughly from June to September is the backbone of Nepal’s agriculture, particularly paddy. One-third of the cultivable land in Nepal is said to be rain-fed.

Nepal recorded the largest paddy harvest in history this fiscal year as the heavens smiled on farmers and sent down an above-average monsoon. According to the Agricultural Ministry, the average monsoon rainfall was the best in the last eight years.

Paddy production jumped 21.66 percent to 5.23 million tonnes this fiscal year, after two consecutive years of falling harvests triggered by drought. The country produced an additional 931,248 tonnes of paddy.

In the last fiscal year, a crippling drought hit paddy production severely, dragging it down by 10.22 percent to 4.29 million tonnes. The ministry said that good rains this fiscal year allowed the country’s paddy acreage to increase 13.91 percent to 1.55 million hectares. Paddy productivity rose 6.81 percent to 3.36 tonnes per hectare.

“This year’s monsoon forecast is positive. It is expected to give a big boost to the farm sector in the next fiscal year as well,” said Yogendra Kumar Karki, spokesperson for the ministry. “Given the favorable rainfall forecast, we can expect the paddy output to reach the same level of this year.” 

The forecast was developed through an expert assessment of various observed and emerging climatic features that influence the monsoon, including the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO).

The Sascof said that a below-normal monsoon was most likely over broad areas of northwestern, central and southeastern parts of South Asia. An above-normal rainfall is most likely over broad areas of eastern and southwestern parts of the region, the forum said. “Normal rainfall is most likely over the remaining areas.”