NEW DELHI (Reuters) - India's monsoon may pick up next week in the main crop-growing areas of north and central parts after last week's slow down, giving impetus to the last leg of planting for summer crops such as oilseeds, pulses and cotton.
Monsoon rains turned below average last week for the first time in the season that stormed in from June 1, falling 5 percent short, the latest figures from the weather office on Thursday showed.
"Rains are expected to be heavy in north and central India during the latter half of the next week," said a senior official of the India Meteorological Department (IMD) who did not wish to be named.
The first month of the season received the heaviest downpours since 2001, with rainfall registering 32 percent above average. But the seasonal rains started easing from early July, as the monsoon entered a weak phase.
This pattern has been good for planting, and rains have eased just at the point when India, one of the world's biggest grains and sugar producers, needs a drier spell to allow farmers to complete sowing. A revival of rains next week should help early growth.
The heavy early rain did little damage in crop-producing regions but in some parts of northern and eastern India, flash floods and torrential downpours killed hundreds of people and displaced thousands.
"On a nationwide scale, the summer sowing is progressing satisfactorily even though some areas have been affected by floods," said J.S. Sandhu, the country's farm commissioner.
P. Chengal Reddy, a farmers' leader from Hyderabad, said planting of crops such as pulses, oilseeds, cereals and cotton were almost complete in the rainfed areas of south, central and north India.
For soybeans, Rajesh Agrawal, chief co-ordinator at the Indore-based Soybean Processors Association said sowing would be completed in the next couple of days.
Weather officials said rains would pick up after the second half of next week in central parts and in areas of eastern India where rice planting continues, while in the soybean belt of central India, sowing should be over before the showers revive.
A year without drought and an average monsoon means higher rural income in the world's second most populous country, improving sales of everything from cars and gold to refrigerators.
In the season to July 10, rainfall overall has been 19 percent above average.
Editing by Jo Winterbottom and David Evans