India's annual monsoon rains have arrived at the southern Kerala coast, a top weather official said on Tuesday, brightening prospects of higher farm output by aiding farmers to plant summer-sown crops such as rice, soybean and cotton on time.
"It's been raining in Kerala for the past few days, but the parameters suggest that the monsoon has arrived today," B.P. Yadav, a director at the state-run India Meteorological Department (IMD) told Reuters.
The annual rains are crucial for farm output and economic growth as about 55 percent of the south Asian nation's arable land is rain-fed, and farm sector accounts for about 15 percent of a nearly $2-trillion economy, Asia's third-biggest.
India is the world's second-biggest producer of rice, wheat, sugar and cotton and also one of the largest consumers, with a population of about 1.2 billion.
Another senior weather office official, who declined to be named, said he expected monsoon rains to make good progress in the western Indian coast - in coffee, tea, rubber and cane areas - in next 2-3 days.
The IMD has forecast average rains in 2012, for the third straight year.
"We are sticking to our forecast of a normal monsoon," Mr Yadav said, adding, the IMD would review its forecast around June 25 after the rains cover half of the country.
The June-September rainy season starts over the Kerala coast and covers the rest of India and neighbouring countries Bangladesh, Bhutan and Nepal by mid-July.
Last week, weather officials said a cyclonic pressure over the Arabian Sea has delayed the rains, give or take 4 days, from its expected June 1 arrival date.
In 2011, the IMD had forecast the onset of monsoon on May 31, but the rains arrived two days ahead of the estimate
As the onset of the southwest monsoon gets closer, the market had been worried there might be a delay on that front. The India Meteorological Department (IMD) has said that conditions are favourable for the monsoon to advance further northward and over Kerala within the next 48 hours.
LS Rathore, director general of IMD tells CNBC-TV18 that the progression of the monsoon is expected to be faster in the western part of the region. "I hope it will reach Konkan, Goa and Mumbai in the next five days," he says.
By the third week of June, Rathore says the IMD will come out with an update on the monsoon forecast for the entire season, the monthly spread of rainfall and the special distribution for the four homogeneous zones of the country.
In its forecast for the next two days, the IMD has predicted rain or thundershowers at many places over Lakshadweep, Kerala, coastal Karnataka and Andaman and Nicobar Islands, sub-Himalayan West Bengal, Sikkim and northeastern states.