India sees above average monsoon rainfall in June, accelerating crop sowingIndia sees above average monsoon rainfall in June, accelerating crop sowing
Beachgoers stand on a seaside promenade as clouds gathered over Arabian Sea in Kochi

By Rajendra Jadhav

MUMBAI (Reuters) – India saw 18% more rainfall than average in June as the monsoon covered the entire country nearly two weeks earlier than usual, the state-run weather office said on Tuesday.

Monsoons deliver about 70% of India’s annual rainfall and are the lifeblood of its $2.9 trillion economy, spurring farm output and boosting rural spending on items ranging from gold to cars, motorcycles and refrigerators.

Soybean, pulses and cotton-growing regions in central and western India saw 31% more rainfall in June, while rice, coffee, rubber and tea growing southern India saw 8% higher rainfall, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) said.

A good start to the June-September monsoon season has accelerated planting of summer-sown crops, with farmers sowing crops on 31.56 million hectares as of June 26, doubling from 2019, when the monsoon arrived late.

Cotton sowing was up 165%, while rice planting rose by 35% during the period.

India is the world’s biggest exporter of rice and the biggest cotton producer. A rise in rice and cotton production could lead to higher exports of both products.

Oilseed plantings have risen 525% from a year ago, which could help the world’s biggest edible oil importer reduce imports.

India is likely to see above average monsoon rainfall even in July, a crucial month for sowing of summer crops, said an official with IMD, who declined to be named as he was not authorized to speak to media.

IMD said last month that India is likely to see above average monsoon rain for the second straight year in 2020, boosting hopes for higher farm output in an economy reeling under the impact of the coronavirus.

(Reporting by Rajendra Jadhav; editing by Jason Neely and Susan Fenton)