New Delhi: The southwest monsoon that brings 70% of India’s rainfall hit the Kerala coast on Tuesday, three days ahead of schedule and in line with predictions by the weather office.

“The monsoon has arrived early as expected. The next stage forecast about region-wise (and month-wise) distribution will be announced in next few days or first week of June," said M. Mohapatra, head of National Weather Forecasting Centre, India Meteorological Department (IMD).

The June to September southwest monsoon which waters over half of India’s crop area lacking assured irrigation kick-starts planting for the kharif crop season. If IMD’s forecast of monsoon rains this year at 97% of the long period or 50-year average is correct, 2018 will mark the third consecutive year of normal rains. If rains are well distributed across regions and over time, it will bode well for production of grains, oilseeds and pulses, which in turn is likely to keep food inflation in check.

However, the past two years of normal rains (in 2016 and 2017), followed by record crop harvests, worsened farm distress as prices of most crops, especially oilseeds and pulses, fell sharply.

“The forecast of a normal monsoon will mean a healthy growth in agriculture output but this will keep crop prices under pressure; in such a situation the government has to evacuate the excess supply by promoting exports of farm commodities," said Ashok Gulati, agriculture chair professor at Delhi-based Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations.

It is for the second consecutive time in the last five years that the monsoon has arrived earlier than expected. Last year, the monsoon arrived on 30 May, as predicted by IMD. However, it was delayed in 2014, 2015 and 2016. Weather department officials said that there is no correlation between an early onset of monsoon with the quantity of rainfall.

The onset of monsoon was preceded by widespread rainfall over Kerala in the past 3-4 days. The 14 rainfall monitoring stations for monsoon onset over Kerala have reported more than 60% rainfall since 25 May.

“The southwest monsoon has further advanced into remaining parts of southeast Arabian Sea, Comorin-Maldives area, entire Lakshadweep, most parts of Kerala, some parts of Tamil Nadu and some more parts of south-west, central and north-east Bay of Bengal," IMD said.

It added that conditions are favourable for further advance of the monsoon into some parts of central Arabian Sea, remaining parts of Kerala, some parts of coastal and south-interior Karnataka, some more parts of east-central and north-east Bay of Bengal and some parts of north-eastern states in the next two days.

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