Monsoon outlook improves as rainfall revives

NEW DELHI Thu Aug 7, 2014 9:21pm IST

Boys run through a water logged street after heavy monsoon rains in New Delhi August 2, 2014. REUTERS/Anindito Mukherjee/Files

Boys run through a water logged street after heavy monsoon rains in New Delhi August 2, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Anindito Mukherjee/Files

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NEW DELHI (Reuters) - The outlook for the second half of India's four-month monsoon has improved after some above-average rainfall that is also expected to spill over into next week, weather experts said on Thursday.

This is likely to boost final leg of summer crop planting in India, one of the world's big producers and consumers of farm commodities such as rice, corn, soybean, cane and cotton.

Monsoon rainfall was 18 percent above average in the past week after rainfall of 9 percent below average in the previous week. The dry start to the June-September monsoon season had prompted fears of drought, the first since 2009.

"Monsoon is in an active phase and no dry run is expected in the next week," B.P. Yadav, head of the National Weather Forecasting Centre at the India Meteorological Department, said.

The wet run shrank the rain shortfall to 18 percent below average by Aug. 6. The gap was 22 percent for the first two months of the season that starts in June.

A weak monsoon cuts exports, stokes food inflation and can hit demand for products ranging from cars to consumer goods.

India's farming sector accounts for around 14 percent of the economy, but two-thirds of the nation's 1.2 billion people depend on farming for a livelihood and more than half of its arable land needs the summer rains.

Farm Commissioner J.S. Sandhu said the wet run in the monsoon would expedite the final lag of planting for crops such as rice and soybean which had lagged behind normal coverage.

"Anti drought measures are well in place down the line. But none of the states have declared a drought so far," Sandhu said.

The Indian government unveiled a scheme to sell diesel at lower rates to farmers in areas where this year's monsoon rainfall has been less than half.

It also raised subsidy on seeds by half for areas where the summer planting started late.

This year's dry monsoon has given rise to drought fears in grain producing areas of northwest India. But heavy rainfall in some areas has caused landslides and floods.

"Unfortunately, my state has witnessed both - a dry patch in the early monsoon phase and heavy floods recently," Bhartruhari Mahtab, a member of parliament from Odisha, said. Odisha is a major rice producing province of the world's second-biggest producer of the grain.

Sugar cane areas of Maharashtra have also have flooding.

"National disaster response force is in place in flood hit areas," Home Minister Rajnath Singh said in parliament.

(Editing by Jane Merriman)

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