India's monsoon rains hit mainland two days early

Reuters News
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Posted: May 29, 2011 8:23 AM

By Ratnajyoti Dutta

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - India's annual monsoon rains have hit the southern state of Kerala two days earlier than expected, weather officials said on Sunday, boosting prospects for a harvest that could spur Asia's third-largest economy.

The July-September monsoon irrigates 60 percent of India's farms and good rains will brighten hopes for a bumper harvest that should ease high food prices and boost the purchasing power of the 600 million Indians dependent on agriculture.

Higher farm supplies could also encourage the government to allow wheat and rice exports, restricted since 2007 to boost domestic supplies to fight high food prices.

"It's been raining over the Kerala coast and over the Andaman sea," a senior official of the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) told Reuters, declining to be named as he is not authorized to speak to the media.

The monsoon generally hits the mainland around June 1 and covers the rest of India by mid-July. The weather office predicted earlier it would arrive in Kerala on May 31.

They have forecast a normal monsoon this year, which would give India rainfall of between 96-104 percent of the 50-year average of 89 cm (35 inches) during the four-month period.

Predictions have often been proved wrong in the past, most recently two years ago when the IMD failed to predict the worst drought in nearly four decades. But if the forecast is right, 2011 will see the second straight year of normal rains.

(Writing by C.J. Kuncheria; editing by Elizabeth Piper)