Image: Labourers plant saplings in a paddy field on the outskirts of the eastern Indian city of Bhubaneswar in this July 19, 2014 file photo. REUTERS/Stringer
By Mayank Bhardwaj
NEW DELHI (Reuters) – India’s weather office said on Monday the late arrival of the monsoon will not delay crop sowing and that rains are expected to make rapid progress after their arrival around June 7.
Laxman Singh Rathore, chief of the India Meteorological Department (IMD), also told Reuters he was sticking to the original forecast of above-average rainfall this year after two straight years of drought that cut farm income.
Monsoon rains, the lifeblood for agriculture-dependent India, typically arrive on the southern tip of Kerala state by around June 1 and cover the entire country by mid-July.
On Sunday the IMD said the monsoon would arrive by June 7.
“There’s a semblance of normality in the forecast that rains would arrive by June 7. In effect, I don’t see any impact on sowing or overall agricultural productivity,” Rathore said in an interview.
Heavy rains have lashed southern states of Kerala and Tamil Nadu in the past few days and showers are expected to hit interior areas of Karnataka state in the next few days, he said.
“Pre-monsoon showers will set the stage for sowing and rains are expected to gather momentum once monsoon arrives by June 7,” Rathore said.
Millions of farmers plant rice, cane, corn, cotton and soybean crops in the rainy months of June and July. Harvesting starts from October.
Current weather patterns suggest that the monsoon would make a rapid progress once rains arrive on the Kerala coast, said K. K. Singh, chief of agricultural meteorology.
“At the moment there is cause for concern at all. We are set to have plentiful rains this year,” Singh said.
The weather office last month said El Nino – a warming of the eastern Pacific Ocean that can lead to dry spells in South Asia – is fading and giving way to La Nina in which the same waters cool.
The monsoon season delivers about 70 percent of India’s annual rainfall. It is critical for the country’s 263 million farmers because nearly half of their farmland lacks irrigation.
Bountiful rains could keep a lid on inflation and also encourage the Reserve Bank of India to cut interest rates after the central bank in April eased its repo rate by 25 basis points to its lowest in more than five years.
(Reporting by Mayank Bhardwaj, editing by David Evans)
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