India’s annual monsoon rains 23% below average

India’s annual monsoon rains 23% below average

New Delhi: India’s annual June-September monsoon rains, vital for farm and overall economic growth in Asia’s third-biggest economy, were 23% below average in 2009, the worst since 1972, government data showed on Thursday.

Rainfall in the past week were 39% below average, data released by the India Meteorological Department showed.

The seasonal shortfall was the worst since 1972, when rains were 24% below normal, and has been a key driver in a 16.3% rise in food prices in the year to mid-September. It has also raised concerns than economic growth may be hit.

The poor rains have hurt the sugarcane crop, raising prospects of large imports of sugar by India, which has so far contracted imports of about 5 million tonnes of raws and 606,000 tonnes of whites.

Large imports by India have pushed New York-traded raw sugar futures near a 28-and-1/2-year peak.

A mounting sugarcane shortage clipped the country’s sugar output to 15 million tonnes in the season that ends this month, down 43% from a year ago.