El Nino's neutrality may help India avoid drought-expert

Last Updated: Thu, Mar 07, 2013 10:30 hrs

By Ratnajyoti Dutta

NEW DELHI, March 7 (Reuters) - India may avoid a drought for a fourth straight year as the El Nino weather system looks unlikely to impact monsoon rains, a leading forecaster said on Thursday, promising yet another bumper grains output in the Asia's third-biggest economy.

El Nino was a factor in India's last severe drought in 2009 when the country had to import sugar, pushing global prices to 30-year highs.

It is associated with warming of the sea's surface in the Pacific Ocean and can cause widespread drought in the Indian sub-continent that results in lower grains output for one of the world's biggest food consumers and producers.

"El Nino is now at a neutral phase and a review about its emergence with associated impact over the Indian sub-continent will be done during the second half of April," D.S. Pai, the lead forecaster of the Indian weather office, told Reuters.

The World Meteorological Organisation will review the chance of El Nino's emergence for this year's monsoon at a regional summit in Kathmandu, where Pai will present the Indian weather office's maiden perspective about the annual summer rains.

"If this year's monsoon is fine, then we can produce another record year of food grain production," Farm Minister Sharad Pawar had said on Wednesday at a conference.

Last year, the monsoon rains avoided a widespread drought even though the first half of the June-September rainy season recorded deficient rainfall.

Rains below 90 percent of a 50-year average are termed deficient by the weather office.

(Editing by Jo Winterbottom)

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