New Delhi: India's monsoon rains recorded higher than average levels in the first week of the four-month rainy season, weather office sources told Reuters on Thursday, reflecting a timely onset and progress so far over southern states.
               
The monsoon rains are crucial for farm output and economic growth as about 55 percent of the south Asian nation's arable land is rain-fed, and the farm sector accounts for about 15 percent of a nearly $2-trillion economy, Asia's third-biggest.
               
Rainfall from May 30 to June 5 was 28 percent above average, the sources said. Last year, in the first week, the rains were 36 percent below average and the monsoon did not start until June 5. Overall rainfall in 2012 ended 8 percent below average but some southern and western states had a drought.
               
In these initial stages of the June-September season, crops are not greatly affected by the quantity of rains, with distribution of rainfall in mid-July after the monsoon covers the entire country more important for their growth.
               
Last week, the annual monsoon rains arrived at the southern Kerala coast on its usual debut date of June 1, boosting farming prospects and raising hopes a drought in cotton and sugar areas of southern and western parts would ease.
               
Seven southern and western states hit by drought last year need plentiful and timely rains to help a recovery and look to have received ample downpours early on.
               
Adequate rains in the season could help the rural economy and keep inflation subdued, as India's coalition government prepares for a round of state polls this year and a national election by May 2014.
               
The Indian weather office will update its outlook for the monsoon over the whole of India, along with a regional forecast, later in June, when rains should have spread over half of India.

(Agencies)

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