New Delhi: India’s vital monsoon rains have covered half of the country though four days behind schedule, but the delay is not a cause for concern, weather officials said on Monday.
Last year, the monsoon arrived over the southern Kerala coast a day ahead of schedule but the entered a weak phase in the first week, causing a 3-day delay in covering half of the country.
“Monsoon rains have covered half of the country,” said B.P. Yadav, director of the India Meteorological Department, on Monday.
“Such delay is not new to the four-month long rainy season,” Yadav added, referring to the delay.
This year, the monsoon arrived the southern coast three days ahead of the normal 1 June and covered tea, coffee, rubber, cane and corn-growing areas of south India and entered the oilseeds, cotton and cane growing areas of western India.
The seasonal rains were above average in south and western region, but below normal in the rice growing areas of eastern India.
For the week ending on 15 June, the monsoon rains were 9% below normal as the seasonal downpours were the lowest in rice and cotton areas in the south and east.
Last week, the monsoon rains entered soybean growing central India and cane growing northern Uttar Pradesh state.
“Rains have entered soybean areas in central India,” said Rajesh Agrawal, executive committee member of the Indore-based Soybean Processors Association of India.
He said soybean planting would start from next week, by when the monsoon rains cover entire Madhya Pradesh, the main producer of the summer oilseed crop, softening the soil for planting.
A good monsoon, for the second straight year after the driest in over three decades in 2009, would help Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s government to tame widely watched headline inflation figures , which stood at 9.06 percent in May on higher food and fuel prices.
High prices had led to street protests, which added to pressure on the Congress-led coalition government to bolster food supplies in the local market.
Last week, India’s central bank raised interest rates for the 10th time in just over a year to rein in high inflation and signalled more hikes to come even as growth in Asia’s third-largest economy slowed down.
Lower inflation would encourage the government to free fuel prices and cut subsidies on diesel, kerosene and cooking gas. That could help trim the 2011/12 fiscal deficit, which is now projected at 4.6% of GDP, and free up revenues for other programmes.
At least the weather officials are optimistic.
“Rains have been well distributed across major crop growing areas, except rice areas of eastern region,” L.S. Rathore, head of the weather office’s agromet division, said, setting aside any fear of a failure of the June-September annual rains.
Yadav said any delay of more than a week in the monsoon’s progress could be a cause of concern, not otherwise.
He also said many parts of the rice growing eastern region received good rainfall last weekend.
Water levels in the country’s main reservoirs in the week to June 16 were 23% of capacity, up by 10 percentage points from a year ago period.