The contingency plan would cover as many as 580 districts that may witness monsoon deficit, while the agriculture ministry is also mulling over steps to popularize crop insurance schemes among the farming community.

"The onset of monsoon looks normal. An error window of 2-3 days can be taken. As of now, there is no delay in arrival of rain. However, monsoon is expected to be below normal due to El Nino factor," a senior IMD official told PTI.

The timely onset of south-west monsoon is crucial for sowing of kharif (summer) crops like paddy and a deficit in rainfall may hit the rice output.

Last year, the country had received 12 per cent less rain, which hit production of grains, cotton and oilseeds. After a poor monsoon in 2014, the untimely rain during March-April this year have already put farmers in distress and there have been quite a few cases of farmer suicides.

Preparing for below-average rain, the agriculture ministry is working hard to minimize the impact of weak monsoon on kharif production especially rice and food inflation.

"The state governments have been asked to fully gear up to implement the contingency plan in 580 districts. In some districts, we are updating contingency measures as per the local needs," agriculture Secretary Siraj Husain said.

He further said a big push would be given to popularize crop insurance scheme among the farming community.

The Indian Meteorological Department (IMD), which has earlier forecast below-average monsoon in 2015, is scheduled to announce on May 15 the likely date of monsoon onset and its progress thereafter.

Private weather forecaster Skymet will also release its update on monsoon around the same time.

"We are projecting normal monsoon, which is expected to land on time around June 1 with 2-3 days of error window," Skymet CEO Jatin Singh said.

As per IMD also, the normal date for monsoon onset on the southern coast is June 1.

Agriculture, which contributes only 15 per cent to India's Gross Domestic Product (GDP) but employs about 60 per cent of population, is heavily dependent on monsoon as only 40 per cent of the cultivable area is under irrigation.

Rainfed eastern states like Jharkhand, West Bengal, Assam, Chhattisgarh and eastern Uttar Pradesh among others grow the country's 60 per cent of the rice.

The timely arrival of rain is key for kharif sowing as almost 70 per cent of the country's total annual precipitation comes during the southwest monsoon season (June-September).

India's foodgrain production is estimated to have declined by three per cent to 257.07 million tonnes in 2014-15 crop year (July-June) from over the last year.

All farmers, who have availed crop loans, would be covered with insurance and settlements would made within 45 days of weather insurance claims, the Agriculture Secretary said.

State governments have been asked to use television channels (including private and local ones) for dissemination of agro-advisories, he said, adding that success stories of farmers who faced drought in previous years would also be shared with the farming community.

The states have been asked to come up with strategies based on the monsoon forecast. They have also been directed to keep ready adequate quantity of seeds besides other inputs such as fertilisers, micro nutrients and pesticides, he added.

Stating that there could be a possible drop in rice output in case of weak monsoon, Odisha-based Central Rice Research Institute (CRRI) Director T Mahapatra said, "If there are weather aberrations, definitely there would be negative impact. Kharif rice would be vulnerable as maximum rice is grown in rainfed areas."

"However, if we take all measures like climate resilient varieties and appropriate management practices, we will have little impact, say a few million tonnes. There will be some impact on production. But it would be difficult to say at this point of time," he said.

As per the IMD, the southwest monsoon would be 93 per cent of the Long Period Average (LPA) which is below normal in the current year due to the impact of El Nino.

Last year, India experienced deficient a rainfall with 88 per cent of the LPA and states in North-West region like Rajasthan, Haryana, Delhi-NCR and western Uttar Pradesh were affected.

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