India's monsoon overcomes delay, set to cover country on time

A man reacts during rainfall as the temperature dips in the capital upon the arrival of monsoon

By Rajendra Jadhav

MUMBAI (Reuters) - India's annual monsoon has covered more than three-fourths of the country and it is set to cover the entire country on time for the planting season despite stalling earlier this month, two senior weather officials said on Thursday.

Summer rains, critical for economic growth in Asia's third-largest economy, usually begin in the south around June 1 before spreading nationwide by July 8, allowing farmers to plant crops such as rice, cotton, soybeans, and sugarcane.

"Monsoon is advancing quickly in northern India and will cover the entire country on time," said an official of the India Meteorological Department (IMD), who spoke on condition of anonymity as he was not authorised to speak to the media.

The southwest monsoon advanced on Thursday, covering more parts of Rajasthan, most of Madhya Pradesh, additional areas of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, and nearly all of Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh, the IMD said in a statement.

India has received 19% less rainfall since June 1, IMD data showed, as the monsoon's progress had stalled, with almost the entire country except for a few southern states experiencing shortfalls and parts of the northwest gripped by heatwaves.

The lifeblood of the nearly $3.5-trillion economy, the monsoon brings nearly 70% of the rain India needs to water farms and refill reservoirs and aquifers.

Without irrigation, nearly half of the farmland in the world's second-biggest producer of rice, wheat, and sugar depends on the annual rains that usually run from June to September.

Rainfall is picking up, and most parts of the country will receive good rainfall in the next fortnight, accelerating the planting of summer-sown crops, another weather official said.

The current rainfall deficit will narrow significantly by mid-July, he added.

(Reporting by Rajendra Jadhav; Editing by Tomasz Janowski)