NEW DELHI (Reuters) - Monsoon rains are likely to hit the Kerala coast in two days, a top weather official said on Monday, easing concerns about the onset delay threatening plantings of summer crops such as rice, soybean and cotton in the farm-dependent economy.
The annual rains are crucial for farm output and economic growth as about 55 percent of the south Asian nation’s 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.
“Conditions have now become favourable for the onset over the Kerala coast,” D.S. Pai, lead forecaster of the India Meteorological Department (IMD) told Reuters.
He said he expects monsoon rains to hit the coast by June 6.
An earlier IMD statement also said the rains were expected in 48 hours.
India farm output vs monsoon rainfall
Graphic on India monsoon - forecast vs actual
The weather office has forecast average rains in 2012, for the third straight year.
Arrival of the rains nearly on time boosts farm output prospects as farmers can plant crops early enough to give them time to reach adequate maturity for a bumper harvest.
“We are retaining our forecast of a normal monsoon this year and will review the forecast around June 25 after the monsoon starts progressing over the mainland India,” Pai said.
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.
Last year, the weather office had forecast the onset of monsoon on May 31, but the rains arrived two days ahead of the estimate.
Editing by Malini Menon