According to a statement by the Maharashtra government, the state has received just 58.50 mm of rainfall till June 30.

While districts of Thane, Raigad, Nashik, Dhule, Nandurbar, Jalgaon, Pune, Aurangabad, Jalna, Osmanabad, Nanded, Hingoli, Buldhana, Akola, Yavatmal and Chandrapur have received 0 to 25 percent rains, districts like Ratnagiri, Sindhudurg, Ahmednagar, Solapur, Satara, Kolhapur, Beed, Latur, Parbhani, Washim, Amravati, Wardha, Nagpur, Bhandara, Gondia, Gadchiroli have received 25 to 50 percent rains so far.

Rainfall in June, the first month of the four-month monsoon season, was 43 percent below average across India, but more than 90 percent down in states like Maharashtra and neighbouring Gujarat.

India, which is one of the world's biggest producers and consumers of rice, corn, cooking oil, sugar and cotton, relies heavily on the annual monsoon rains as nearly half of its farmland is rainfed.

Pramod Patil's 40-acre field in Lasalgaon usually turns green by this time of the year with germinated soybean and corn seeds but this year he has yet to begin planting because of scanty monsoon rains in Maharashtra.

Like 27-year old Patil, millions of farmers are hoping rains will strengthen in the next two weeks so that they can grow rice, soybean, cotton, pulses and some vegetables.

"Every day we look at the sky hoping to see some black rainfall clouds but the sky is clear," said Patil.

"Soybean and onion prices are attractive but what's the use if I fail to cultivate crops this year,” he added.

A delay in sowing will hit soymeal and cotton exports that normally pick up from October and could force India to increase imports of edible oils, said Harish Galipelli, vice-president research at Inditrade Derivatives and Commodities.

The poor start to the monsoon in the western region could affect production because only 35 percent of the area sown to crops is irrigated, Morgan Stanley Research said in a note.

The scanty rainfall has also threatened the plantation of crops in Maval area of Maharashtra.

According to officials of the India Meteorological Department (IMD), delayed monsoon has resulted in more than 60 percent deficiency in rainfall in Maharashtra but all hopes for good rain are not yet lost.

DS Pai, Director of India Meteorological Department in western Pune, has, however, highlighted the strengthening of monsoon current over central India.

Welcome relief for Mumbai

However, there was a welcome relief for those living in Mumbai and large parts of coastal and western Maharashtra as the regions received heavy rains on Wednesday.

Though delayed by over three weeks, the steady downpour resulted in water-logging in low-lying areas and created disruptions in road and rail traffic within Mumbai and outside.

Heavy rain was reported from Thane, Raigad, Ratnagiri, Sindhudurg, Nashik, Ahmednagar and Satara districts in the coastal and western parts of the state.

Mumbaikars' favourite hill stations like Lonavala, Matheran, Panchagani and Mahabaleshwar were also soaked by the heavy rain, further cooling the constantly high temperatures of the past three months.

JPN/Agencies

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