India is likely to receive average monsoon rains in 2018, the weather office said, raising the possibility of higher farm and economic growth in Asia's third-biggest economy, where half of the farmland lacks irrigation.
Releasing its first forecast for 2018, the Met department said that rains would be 97 per cent of the Long Period Average (LPA), with a model error of plus or minus 5 per cent. Probability of normal to excess rains is 56% and that of below normal and deficit rain is 44%.
Monsoon rains, the lifeblood of the country's $2 trillion economy, are expected to be 97 percent of a long-term average, K.J. Ramesh, director general of the state-run India Meteorological Department (IMD), told a news conference.
Other than lifting farm and wider economic growth, a wet spell will keep a lid on inflation, potentially tempting Prime Minister Narendra Modi to bring forward general elections due in May 2019.
India's weather office defines average, or normal, rainfall as between 96 percent and 104 percent of a 50-year average of 89 cms for the entire four-month season beginning June.
Private weather forecasting agency Skymet has said rainfall in 2018 will be normal at 100 per cent of the LPA.
The forecaster also said that there is nil possibility of a big nationwide drought or deficient rainfall when the total cumulative seasonal rainfall across the country falls below 90 per cent of LPA.
It said that normal rains are likely for the country, particularly East India, while the Southern Peninsula and parts of Northeast India could be at some risk of getting below normal rains.
The IMD, which released its initial forecast for the four-month monsoon season, also said preliminary indications showed this year's rains would evenly distributed.
Detailed forecasts on regional distribution will be made in early June, by when more information on El Niño and the IOD is available.