Indian monsoon 24% above average in August, heavy rain to continue

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - Monsoon rains, which picked up pace in August, are likely to be heavy for the rest of the month, the chief of the state-run India Meteorological Department (IMD) said, potentially benefiting summer crops such as rice, corn and cotton.

After a patchy spell in the last two weeks of July, India received 24% above average rains so far in August, and the trend is likely to continue at least through this month, Mrutyunjay Mohapatra, director general of the IMD, told Reuters.

“There’s no doubt that the quantity of rains has been excellent, but the other important feature of this year’s monsoon is that the rainfall has been very well distributed across the country,” Mohapatra said. “And that augurs well for our agricultural output this year.”

Of the 36 meteorological subdivisions in India, monsoon rains have been either average or above average in 32 so far this year, he said.

The IMD defines average, or normal, rainfall as between 96% and 104% of a 50-year average of 88 cm for the entire four-month season beginning in June.

India, where nearly half of the country’s farmland lacks irrigation, has received 7% above average rains since June 1, when the monsoon arrived on the southernmost Kerala coast.

Farmers have planted 106.3 million hectares with summer crops so far, the Ministry of Agriculture & Farmers’ Welfare said, up 8.5% from last year as heavy monsoon rains in June spurred sowing in the world’s leading producer of farm goods.

Until last week, planting of rice, the key summer crop, was at 37.8 million hectares, against 33.9 million hectares at the same time last year.

“Monsoon rains were rather robust in June and a little weak in July. Rains picked up in August, but we could again get to see a little bit of a weak spell in September,” Mohapatra said.

Reporting by Mayank Bhardwaj; editing by David Evans