India to receive above-average monsoon rains, boosting crop output

MUMBAI/NEW DELHI (Reuters) – India is likely to receive above average monsoon rainfall for the second straight year in 2020, the state-run weather office said on Monday, raising hopes for higher farm output and a boost for Asia’s third-biggest economy as it reels from the new coronavirus.

FILE PHOTO: A man rows his boat in the tributary waters of Vembanad Lake against the backdrop of pre-monsoon clouds on the outskirts of Kochi, India, June 7, 2019. REUTERS/Sivaram V

Monsoon rains are critical for farm output and economic growth as about 55% of the south Asian nation’s arable land is rain-fed, and the farm sector makes up about 15 percent of a nearly $2-trillion economy, Asia’s third-biggest.

Monsoon rains are expected to be 102% of a long-term average (LTA), M. Rajeevan, secretary at the Ministry of Earth Sciences told a news conference.

The India Meteorological Department defines normal rainfall as between 96% and 104% of a 50-year average of 88 centimetres for the four-month season beginning in June.

In July, a crucial month for planting summer-sown crops, India could receive 103% rainfall of its LTA, while in August it could receive 97%, Rajeevan said.

Rains usually lash Kerala state, on India’s southwest coast, from around June 1 and cover the whole country by mid-July. This year the monsoon came on time and could boost the planting of crops such as rice, soybeans and cotton.

Yields of summer-sown crops could be better this year, Ashwini Bansod, head commodities research at Phillip Capital India Pvt Ltd, said.

“The soil moisture level is good due to higher pre-monsoon rains and even during the monsoon, rainfall is expected to be well-distributed across the country,” Bansod said.

The country’s rice and cotton growing north-western region could get 107% rainfall of the LTA, while soybean, sugar cane and cotton growing central region could receive 103% rainfall, the IMD said.

The rice and tea growing region in north-eastern parts could receive 96% rainfall, while rice, rubber and coffee growing southern India could get 102% rains, it said.

Reporting by Rajendra Jadhav and Mayank Bhardwaj; editing by Gareth Jones and Barbara Lewis

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