NEW DELHI, June 1 (Reuters) - India is likely to receive
normal monsoon rains this year, weather officials said on
Tuesday, upgrading a prior forecast and boosting expectations
for larger farm output amid a devastating second wave of
The monsoon, which is expected to hit the southern coast
around Thursday, is crucial for India's $2.7-trillion economy,
as it delivers nearly 70% of the rain needed by farms, besides
replenishing reservoirs and aquifers.
The rainfall is expected to be well distributed, with most
areas expected to receive an average to above-average amount,
said Mrutyunjay Mohapatra, director general of the India
Meteorological Department (IMD).
"Weather conditions have become even more favourable since
we issued our last forecast in April, and that's why we've
upgraded our forecast," Mohapatra told a news conference.
The weather office set its forecast at 101% in a range of
average, or normal, rainfall that it defines as being between
96% and 104% of a 50-year average of 88 cm (35 inches) for the
entire four-month season.
Its April forecast had put the figure at 98%.
Monsoon rains are expected to be average at the beginning of
the season in June, Mohapatra said. It is a time when tens of
thousands of farmers typically start planting crops such as
rice, corn, cotton, soybeans, sugarcane and peanuts.
The IMD will issue its forecast for July rainfall in the
last week of June.
India's northwest, which grows rice and cotton, could get
average rainfall, while the central region, where soybean, sugar
cane and cotton are grown, could receive rainfall that is above
the average, the department added.
Southern India, where rice, rubber and coffee are grown,
could get average rainfall, but the rains could be below average
in the northeastern rice- and tea- growing region, it said.
The revised monsoon forecast would help the farm sector and
minimise the risk of an escalation in food inflation at the time
of an upswing in global commodity prices, said QuantEco Research
economist Yuvika Singhal.
Nearly half of India's farmland gets no irrigation and is
dependent on the annual rains from June to September. Farming
accounts for nearly 15% of the economy but sustains more than
half of a population of 1.3 billion.
Monsoon rains usually lash the southern tip of Kerala state
around June 1 and retreat by September.
(Reporting by Rajendra Jadhav and Mayank Bhardwaj; Additional
reporting by reporting Swati Bhat in Mumbai; Editing by Andrew
Heavens and Clarence Fernandez)