New Delhi: Monsoon rains were 44 percent above average in the week to Sept. 19, the weather office said, the fourth straight week of bountiful showers, softening the blow of dry weather conditions in the world's leading producer of farm products.

The weak start of the June-to-September monsoon season raised the spectre of a widespread drought, curbing sowing of some summer-planted crops.

Late revival in rains would help boost yield of summer-planted crops such as rice, cane, corn, cotton and soybean but might not completely offset the damage, analysts said.

In the previous week, rainfall was 21 percent above average, as the monsoon revived in rice, cane and soybean areas.

The rains, vital for the 55 percent of India's farmland without irrigation, are still 5 percent short of average. The shortfall has hit planting of some cereals and pulses in some drought-hit areas of west and south India, threatening output.

Rains below 90 percent of long-term averages are considered deficient - a drought in layman's terms.  

In 2009, when India, whose huge land mass contains nearly all climates and soil types, faced widespread drought, monsoon rains were 22 percent below average. The country had to import large amounts of sugar then, pushing global prices to 30-year highs.


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