Indian monsoon turns patchy after revival

Written by Reuters | New Delhi | Updated: Aug 1 2014, 00:13am hrs
India's monsoon rains were nine percent below average in the week ended July 30, the weather office said on Thursday, as a patchy phase returned after the previous week's wet run.

Rains were 24 percent above average during the previous week with the monsoon reviving in the soybean and cotton growing areas of central and western India.

India's farming sector accounts for around 14 percent of the economy but two thirds of the nation's 1.2 billion people depend on farming for a livelihood and more than half of its arable land needs monsoon rains.

"The monsoon eased in the last couple of days on a national scale even though some pockets in western and eastern India received heavy rainfall causing floods," said an official of the Indian weather office who did not wish to be named.

Officials forecast rains would improve in the cane areas of north India and rice areas of the eastern region in the next week, while a likely slowdown in rains over central India would help finish planting of soybean, the main summer oilseed crop.

"Soybean sowing will be almost over by early next week," said Rajesh Agrawal, chief coordinator at the Soybean Processors Association of India (SOPA) from the central city Indore, the soybean hub of India, the world's leading importer of cooking oil.

A late onset over the southern Kerala coast and subsequent slow progress towards the grain bowl northwest India made the first month of the June to September rain season the driest in five years, raising concerns of a widespread drought.

India is a major global producer and consumer of commodities like rice, corn, sugar, soybean, cooking oil and cotton. These summer crops are planted with the spread of the monsoon rains.

The poor monsoon up until mid-July raised fears of a drought in a year forecast to bring below average downpours and had delayed the sowing of summer crops.