New Delhi, June 30
India’s crucial monsoon rains should pick up in July after a slow start over vast swathes of the country, which threatened crops from rice to sugar, forecasters said.
Some 26 out of India’s 36 weather zones received "deficient" or "scanty" rains last week from the monsoon which sweeps the subcontinent from June to September, the weather office said Saturday.
"The monsoon rains are expected to pick up in the latter half of next week," Swati Basu, acting Director General of the India Meteorological Department (IMD), told the semi-official news agency Press Trust of India late on Friday.
Basu forecast good rains in July which along with August are key months for planting and when India usually receives the maximum amount of rain.
For the month of June as a whole, over 70 percent of the country received deficient or scanty rains since the onset of the monsoon -- raising fears of a repeat of a drought that devastated Indian farmers in 2009.
"The monsoon has definitely started off on a sour note," said Kotak Mahindra economist Indranil Pan in a note to clients.
India’s 235 million farmers still rely on the erratic rains to soak much of the country’s farmland -- despite longstanding calls for the government to improve irrigation and water-harvesting methods to ensure more stable crop output.
India is the world’s second-largest producer of rice, sugar, wheat and cotton and a poor monsoon could hit prices on world commodity markets.
The rains have been abundant in India’s northeast where raging floods have forced hundreds of thousands of people from their homes but weak in the vital northwestern grain bowl and oil seed-growing central regions.
"Meteorological conditions indicate an increase in rainfall activity over east, central and also over northwest India" in coming days, said the weather office forecast.