June 12, 2020 / 2:03 AM / 21 days ago

Monsoon rains spread over a third of India, weather office says

A man carries his bicycle as he crosses a flooded road after heavy rains in Ahmedabad, June 8, 2020. REUTERS/Amit Dave

MUMBAI (Reuters) - Annual monsoon rains key to farm output and economic growth have covered more than a third of India and could spread further into its eastern and western regions this week, the weather office said on Thursday.

The rains are critical for farming, which makes up about 15 percent of Asia’s third-biggest economy at a size of nearly $2 trillion, since about 55% of arable land in the south Asian nation is rain-fed.

“Conditions are becoming favourable for further advance of southwest monsoon into more parts of the central Arabian Sea and Maharashtra,” the India Meteorological Department (IMD) said in a statement.

In the next 48 hours, the monsoon would also advance into some more parts of the eastern states of Odisha and West Bengal, it added.

The western state of Maharashtra is India’s second biggest producer of cotton, soybean and sugar, while West Bengal is the top rice producer.

The monsoon’s progress will help farmers speed up sowing of summer crops such as soybean, cotton, rice and pulses.

Since the season began on June 1, the rains brought by the monsoon have been 32% greater than normal, weather department data shows, particularly as a cyclone, Nisarga, brought heavy rain last week to the west coast.

India is likely to receive above average monsoon rain for the second straight year in 2020, the IMD said this month, boosting hopes for higher farm output in an economy reeling under the impact of the coronavirus.

Reporting by Rajendra Jadhav; Editing by Clarence Fernandez

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