New Delhi: Monsoon rains have begun easing from the western desert state of Rajasthan but should continue in the northeast until the end of the month and give a lift to summer-sown crops there, weather office sources said on Tuesday.

"The monsoon withdrawal has started," one of the sources at the India Meteorological Department (IMD) told.

The monsoon rains are so far 6 percent below average and the uneven distribution has already led to drought in pulse and cereal growing areas of western and south states, reducing planting.

But late rains in other areas have improved prospects for summer-sown crops.

"We expect this year's monsoon season to end with around 7-8 percent below normal rainfall," one source said. It is considered a drought if the figure is 10 percent below the long-term average.

In the northeast, floods and landslides triggered by relentless rain have killed at least 33 people and displaced more than a million over the past week.

India depends on the annual monsoon to irrigate more than half of its farmland.

The rains were well-below average in the first half of the season, including during the key planting month of July, causing drought in some areas and raising concerns also about the impact on such crops as rice, oilseeds, cane and cotton.  

The threat of widespread drought abated after the monsoon staged a revival during the last week of August, improving prospects for winter crops such as wheat and rapeseed.

The weak start of the monsoon season could cut summer-sown rice, corn and other grain crops by 10 percent from a year ago, a drop traders said was too slight to trigger a government ban on exports.

This year's dramatic late monsoon revival also gave rise to an expectation that the June-September rainy season could extend to early October, disrupting harvest of summer crops such as rice and soybean.

(Agencies)

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