NEW DELHI (Reuters) - India's annual monsoon rains have arrived at the southern Kerala coast, a top weather official said on Tuesday, brightening prospects of higher farm output by aiding farmers to plant summer-sown crops such as rice, soybean and cotton on time.
"It's been raining in Kerala for the past few days, but the parameters suggest that the monsoon has arrived today," B.P. Yadav, a director at the state-run India Meteorological Department (IMD) told Reuters.
The annual rains are crucial for farm output and economic growth as about 55 percent of the arable land is rain-fed, and farm sector accounts for about 15 percent of a nearly $2-trillion economy, Asia's third-biggest.
India is the world's second-biggest producer of rice, wheat, sugar and cotton and also one of the largest consumers, with a population of about 1.2 billion.
Another senior weather office official, who declined to be named, said he expected monsoon rains to make good progress in the western Indian coast - in coffee, tea, rubber and cane areas - in next 2-3 days.
The IMD has forecast average rains in 2012, for the third straight year.
Monsoon - actual vs official forecasts link.reuters.com/far67s
Monsoon and key summer food crops link.reuters.com/nez58s
Monsoon rains and sugarcane output link.reuters.com/mez58s
"We are sticking to our forecast of a normal monsoon," Yadav said, adding, the IMD would review its forecast around June 25 after the rains cover half of the country.
The June-September rainy season starts over the Kerala coast and covers the rest of India and neighbouring countries Bangladesh, Bhutan and Nepal by mid-July.
Last week, weather officials said a cyclonic pressure over the Arabian Sea has delayed the rains, give or take 4 days, from its expected June 1 arrival date.
In 2011, the IMD had forecast the onset of monsoon on May 31, but the rains arrived two days ahead of the estimate.
Reporting by Ratnajyoti Dutta and Mayanak Bhardwaj; editing by Malini Menon