Bumper monsoon rains weaken further in retreat
NEW DELHI (Reuters) - Monsoon is forecast to continue its early retreat next week with less than average rains across the country once again, barring cane and rice growing areas of south and central parts, weather officials said.
The monsoon's early withdrawal from the grain bowl northwest region is not a cause of concern, however, as summer crops do not need heavy downpours during their final maturity stage.
Most of the summer sown crops such as rice, cane, soybean and cotton this year benefited from early heavy showers at the beginning of the season from June.
The monsoon, crucial for the 55 percent of Indian farmland that does not have irrigation, brought the heaviest rains in nearly two decades during its first half this year, fanning hopes for bumper harvests.
Rainfall was 37 percent below average in the week to September 11, compared with a shortfall of 30 percent the previous week, data from the weather office showed on Thursday, reflecting the third straight week of below average downpours.
"Monsoon rains almost dried up from the western region but they are likely to remain active over south India, central and adjoining parts of eastern India until early next week," said B.P. Yadav, director of the India Meteorological Department (IMD).
Yadav said some parts of north India including the national capital city New Delhi are expected to witness sporadic rainfall activity in the next 24 hours but thereafter turn dry.
India's monsoon rains usually start retreating from the west by mid-September.
Planting of winter crops such as wheat and rapeseed from next month is unlikely to face any major problems from the early retreat of the rains since these are mainly planted in irrigated areas where reservoirs hold more than double the water they did a year ago.
Farm experts say sporadic downpours at this stage would aid the maturing of summer crops and improve yield prospects.
"Any showers over rainfed areas will improve yield prospects for strong crops like sugarcane, and also cut irrigation costs," said Sudhir Kumar Panwar, chief of the Kishan Jagriti Manch, a farmers' group.
Ample rains from the start of the monsoon in June raised hopes for bumper harvests and higher rural incomes in the world's second most populous country, which could improve sales of retail items, from cars to freezers, and aid rural growth.
That would bring some relief to the government, which is struggling to boost growth and give support to a stumbling rupee.
(Editing by Jo Winterbottom)
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