May 15, 2020 / 1:25 PM / 23 days ago

Monsoon to reach India's Kerala coast later than usual

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/File Photo

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - Crop-nourishing monsoon rains are likely to reach Kerala state on India’s southern tip on June 5, four days later than usual, the country’s weather office said on Friday.

But the monsoon is likely to arrive over the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, the Indian archipelago in the Bay of Bengal, in the next 48 hours, earlier than usual, due to a cyclonic storm there, the state-run India Meteorological Department (IMD) said in a statement.

The monsoon, the lifeblood of India’s $2.9 trillion economy, delivers nearly 70% of the rain that the country needs to water farms and replenish reservoirs and aquifers.

Nearly half of India’s farmland, without any irrigation cover, depends on annual June-September rains to grow crops such as rice, corn, cane, cotton and soybeans.

Last month, the IMD said India is likely to receive average monsoon rains this year, raising expectations of higher farm output in Asia’s third-biggest economy, which is reeling from a coronavirus lockdown.

In a separate statement, the IMD said the cyclone, which is expected to intensify in the Bay of Bengal by Saturday evening, will bring heavy rains in the eastern states of Odisha and West Bengal and the Andaman and Nicobar islands.

The IMD also asked fishermen not to go into the southern and central parts of the Bay of Bengal from Friday.

Reporting by Mayank Bhardwaj, editing by Larry King

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