New Delhi: South-west monsoon, the key to the agriculture driven trillion-dollar Indian economy, is on course and is expected to drench Kerala by Wednesday thereby bringing much-needed relief to farmers.

"Monsoon is round the corner. Parts of Kerala have been receiving rains since this morning. We may declare the onset of monsoon over Kerala coast by Wednesday," Laxman Singh Rathore, Director General, India Meteorological Department (IMD) said here.

Kerala usually receives monsoon showers by June 1, but Rathore said there was no need to paint a gloomy picture as the progress of the seasonal rainfall phenomenon was well with the forecast limits which have a model error of four days.

A unique feature of this year's monsoon would be its steady progress along the western coast brings copious rains to coastal Kerala and leaving the peninsular region relatively dry.

Current observations show central and northern Kerala receiving rainfall while Thiruvananthapuram getting little rains.

Weather watchers attribute the slight delay in the onset of monsoon to Typhoon Mawar which was active in a western Pacific Ocean off the Philippines and sucking away moisture and wind currents to power itself.

"The typhoon has moved northward towards Japan and will no longer affect the progression of the monsoon," Rathore said.

On the effect of El Nino conditions -- warming of the Central Pacific -- on the monsoon, he said it was too early to predict any adverse effect.

"At present, El Nino conditions are neutral," he said indicating that it would not have much impact on the monsoon.

El Nino conditions could turn positive during August- September when the monsoon season draws to a close in India. Scientists said sea surface temperatures in the central Pacific were expected to rise by 0.5 degrees Celsius to 0.7 degree Celsius.

However, they were quick to point out that there was no direct co-relation between El Nino and the monsoon.

"In 1997, El Nino was at its highest with central Pacific sea temperatures rising by four degrees but India had a normal monsoon," Rathore said.

In 1997, the sea surface temperatures in the Indian Ocean were favourable for the monsoon which negated the adverse impact of El Nino.

The IMD declares the onset of monsoon over Kerala when 50 percent of the 14 observation stations in the state and Lakshadweep islands report rainfall for 48 hours.

Monsoon rains are crucial for agriculture as only 40 percent of the cultivable area is under irrigation. The farm sector contributes about only 15 percent to the country's Gross Domestic Product (GDP), but it employs about 60 percent of India's population.

Rathore said deviation of 3-4 days in arrival of monsoon rains would have no adverse impact on sowing of kharif crops.

"There is no concern for paddy sowing because seedlings are raised first in nursery through irrigation and then transplanted in the field much later," he said.

There would be no impact on cotton and sugarcane crops as these long-duration crops are mostly cultivated in areas with irrigation facilities.

On the back of good monsoon in 2010 and 2011, the country harvested a record foodgrains production of 245 million tones and 252.56 million tonnes, respectively.

(Agencies)

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