Monsoon rains dip in past week, crops healthy

Monsoon rains dip in past week, crops healthy

New Delhi: India’s vital monsoon rains were a quarter below normal in the past week, dipping after two weeks of heavy showers that fed soil moisture and helped the cane, soybean and rice crops thrive despite weak rainfall.

Total rainfall since 1 June was 4% below normal but above-average monsoon in July, the main crop-planting month, has boosted hopes of strong harvests in the world’s top consumer of sugar and the biggest buyer of vegetable oils, data from the Meteorological Department showed on Thursday.

The weather office said rainfall in the past week was 26% below normal, but in the next few days fairly widespread rainfall was expected in the main soybean, rice and cane growing regions.

Farm scientists said weak rainfall for one week in August would not hurt crops.

“There is no need to panic. There is enough moisture in the soil to keep crops healthy for another week," said J P S Dabas, a senior scientist at Indian Agricultural Research Institute.

Weather officials said crops were progressing well.

“Overall status of summer crops is good across the country, except some rice areas in eastern parts where rains were less," said an official of the weather department who sought not to be named in the absence of official authority to speak to the media.

A normal monsoon will help Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s government tame inflation which has surged after last year’s drought and provoked a series of public protests.

India’s food price index rose 11.4% in the year to 31 July, according to the latest government data.

This year, rainfall has been weak mainly in eastern and northeastern India, where rice and tea are grown, but the country’s total crop output is expected to increase as adequate monsoon rains in July have boosted crop planting.

Crops planted last month were progressing well, farmers said.

“Early-maturing soybean is maturing well. It has entered the flowering stage," said a farmer from the central state of Madhya Pradesh, the main oilseed-growing region.