El Nino unlikely to affect monsoon - weather office

NEW DELHI Wed Jul 11, 2012 6:51pm IST

A vendor selling candy floss walks on a seaside promenade as monsoon clouds gather over the sea in Kochi April 25, 2012. REUTERS/Sivaram V/Files

A vendor selling candy floss walks on a seaside promenade as monsoon clouds gather over the sea in Kochi April 25, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Sivaram V/Files

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NEW DELHI (Reuters) - The El Nino weather pattern is unlikely to affect monsoon rains, the Meteorological Department said, providing good news to farmers already worried about drought as the monsoon rains remain below average.

El Nino causes a warming of ocean surface temperatures in the eastern and central Pacific that can trigger droughts or heavy rain in Asia.

L.S. Rathore, chief of the India Meteorological Department, said the weather pattern was unlikely to develop before mid-August, or after farmers had finished planting most of their summer crop.

El Nino caused a drought in India in 2009, turning that summer into the driest season in nearly four decades. There had been fears that it could cause another drought this summer, especially as the monsoon rains have been 23 percent below average since the season began on June 1.

Weather officials said the monsoon now covered the whole country but was likely to remain weak until next week. If the rains do not improve, crop yields would be affected.

For more on Indian monsoon and key summer food crops link.reuters.com/nez58s

Good monsoon rains are crucial for farmers in India, one of the world's biggest producers of rice, sugar and grains. Hundreds of millions of Indians depend on agriculture for their livelihood.

The rains end in September, but July is the key planting month. Nearly half of India's farmland is rain-fed.

Agriculture minister Sharad Pawar said the rains had improved in the last 10 days, speeding up sowing of major summer crops such as rice and cotton.

However, poor rainfall in some pockets of Maharashtra and Karnataka was worrying, he told reporters.

(Writing by Ratnajyoti Dutta, editing by Ross Colvin and Miral Fahmy)

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