NEW DELHI (Reuters) - Monsoon rains were 12 percent above normal in the week to June 1, the weather office said on Thursday, after hitting the southern coast two days ahead of expectations, with coffee and rubber crops potentially benefiting.
Weather department sources said they were still expecting normal progress for the monsoon.
Last year, the monsoon hit Kerala a day ahead of the normal date of June 1, but a cyclone in the Arabian Sea stalled initial progress.
“Conditions favour the monsoon progress and nothing unusual has been recorded so far which can stall normal progress,” a source at the India Meteorological Department said.
The monsoon, vital for farm output in India’s trillion-dollar economy, hit the country’s southern coast on May 29 this year.
“Higher rainfall at this stage in southern parts will help crops like coffee and rubber,” said S. Raghuraman, an analyst with consulting firm Agriwatch.
He said the higher rainfall would also help in planting of water-absorbing paddy crop in south India.
The monsoon normally delivers higher rainfall in its early stages over the south of the country.
It provides irrigation for 60 percent of India’s arable land and can give rural incomes a boost through increased crop production. About half of India’s farm output comes from crops sown during the four-month-long season.
Rains should reach remaining parts of Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka by Friday, the weather office said.
The south-west monsoon usually covers half of the country by the middle of June and the entire country by mid-July.
“We expect the entire south of India will be covered by the first week of June,” said another source at the weather office.
Key crops sown in the summer include rice, sugar cane, soybean, corn and cotton.
The early arrival of the monsoon has weighed on sentiment in India’s oilseeds and soyoil futures markets which are expecting higher production, and depressed gold demand as players expected farmers to spend on seeds and fertilizers instead of jewellery.
“Futures lost early gains this week due to hopes of higher farm output arising from the expectation of a normal monsoon,” said Vinita Advani, analyst with Geojit Comtrade.
The monsoon hit a week earlier than normal in 2009 but the season turned out to be the driest in four decades, causing widespread losses to crops, hitting farmers’ income and pushing up food inflation.
Last year’s normal rains helped boost production of grains and oilseeds to record highs and could persuade the government, concerned to ensure its half a billion poor have enough to eat, to ease its ban on grain exports.
Editing by Jo Winterbottom