New Delhi (Reuters)-India monsoon rains had subsided and will likely continue to more measured pace next week, Weather officials said on Thursday, helping the summer crops, which faced the threat of damage from heavy downpours.
The rains also could pick up in the eastern part of the country, which was lower than the average rainfall to date and requires more water to help finish up planting rice.
India, one of the world's largest producers and consumers of agricultural commodities, is heavily dependent on annual monsoon for its huge harvest of rice, sugar and cash crops like cotton. So far, the rains in most parts of the country were very severe, when helping seeding early on but unwelcome now when crops are at a delicate stage.
"The rainfall will ease over the Central, Western and southern next week, but is expected to be heavy in the North-East and parts of Northern India," said d.s. Pai, Chief weather forecaster of the Indian Weather Office.
Rains were 1% below the average during the week ending August 7, the Weather Bureau data showed. They were 17 percent above normal in the first half of June to September season.
For distribution of monsoon: link.reuters.com/rab69n
Weekly schedule of precipitation: link.reuters.com/kac32v
Monsoons, crucial for 55 percent of Indian agricultural land that has no irrigation, was the heaviest in nearly two decades in the first half of the season with the fastest ever country coverage for almost a month ahead schedule.
Enough rain may mean higher incomes in rural areas in the second most populous country in the world, improving sales of everything from cars to refrigerators and gold. Finance Minister p. Chidambaram said the monsoon can help agricultural growth and stimulate the economy as a whole.
Last year, the agricultural sector grew about 1.8 per cent after six States, some of them major manufacturers, hit by a severe drought.
Now the initial plantings for most of the early planted crops, the rains should ease to give enough sunlight during their stage of growth and allow weeding.
Monsoon weakened mainly over the Central and southern regions last week, giving the planted crops such as soy, beans and cotton, whose yields were threatened by high levels of soil moisture.
"The general condition is still pretty good, but there should be continuous rains over the soybeans, pulses and cotton-growing areas of Central and Western India," said j.s. Sandhu, Commissioner of the country farm.
Sandhu said that rice planting was generally satisfactory, despite lagging in some Eastern States of Bihar and Jharkhand, where rains have not brought enough water in the soil.
Torrential rains also pushed water levels in the main reservoirs of the country twice last year, 63 percent of capacity.
(Editing, Joe Uinterbottoma and Patrick Graham)