New Delhi, June 2, 2012 (AFP) - India's monsoon, crucial to farmers and growth in Asia's third-largest economy, has missed its normal arrival date but forecasters said they were confident the rains would arrive soon.
"Most likely, the southwest monsoon will reach Kerala by June 5," India Meteorological Department director general L.S. Rathore told the Press Trust of India late on Friday. Normally the rains begin sweeping across the subcontinent from June 1 to late September and in recent years they have started early. Rathore said "there is no concern" about the delay in the arrival of the monsoon rains that he attributed to unfavourable weather off India's shores in the Arabian Sea. The weather office in April forecast that the rains would be normal for a third straight year. Indian agriculture gets 60 percent of its precipitation from the rains and a bad monsoon can spell financial disaster for its 235 million farmers, many of whom are smallholders eking out a living. While agriculture's share of India's nearly $2-trillion economy has shrunk to around 14 percent from 30 percent in the early 1990s, the rains are still vital to its fortunes. Rural spending accounts for more than 50 percent of domestic consumption and a failed monsoon hits demand for everything from fridges to cars. The country suffered a devastating drought in 2009.
The government is banking on a good monsoon to rein in surging food prices that have hit hardest India's hundreds of millions of poor, the ruling Congress party's biggest supporters. It also needs a good agricultural performance to spur growth after the economy grew by 6.5 percent last year, its slowest pace in nine years.