The monsoon rains this year are expected to reach 98% of the long-term average, the India Meteorological Department said on Tuesday, reported Reuters. “Expect monsoon distribution to be very good,” said IMD Director General KG Ramesh. “Monsoon likely to reach Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal by June 13 or June 14.”

The IMD forecast is 2% higher than what was predicted in April. This may boost agricultural incomes and economic growth. The agricultural sector contributes to about 15% of India’s Gross Domestic Product, and employs well over half of India’s over 1.3 billion population. Thus, the June to September monsoon, which delivers about 70% of the country’s annual rainfall, is critical for the sector.

Monthly rainfall is likely to be around 96% of the long-term average for July, while August will experience 99% of the average, with a model error of around 9%, the IMD said. In April, the IMD had said that this year’s monsoon rains will 96 percent of the 50-year average of 89 centimetres.

Monsoon rains lashed the Kerala coast on May 30, in what was the earliest start to the monsoon since 2011.

IMD has predicted neutral El Nino conditions till the end of the year, in contrast with the predictions by other global climate centres which have said that there is a 60% chance of weak El Nino conditions during the second half of 2017. The El Nino phenomenon declined in 2016. It involves warming of ocean surface temperatures in the eastern and central Pacific that typically occurs every few years and has been linked to crop damage, fires and flash floods.

KJ Ramesh, director general of India Meteorological Department, told Reuters in May that India would receive higher monsoon rainfall this year than previously predicted. “We assessed 96 percent based on the climatological conditions up to March,” he had said. “Now, conditions are becoming favourable for an improvement over our April 18 estimate.”

Boost from “Indian Nino” phenomenon

The monsoon in India will also receive a boost from the Indian Ocean Dipole phenomenon, which is also known as the Indian Nino. IMD has predicted that weak positive Indian Nino conditions are likely to develop during the monsoon season.

The IMD has for the first time this year used a US model modified to suit India, in its forecasts for the monsoon. The new model could help India raise its agricultural output by nearly 15%, by helping farmers modify the best time to sow, irrigate or apply fertilisers. It will also help the government to plan measures of rains fail.