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Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Monsoon reaches Andaman region early: Met office

Monsoon rains, vital for farm output in India's trillion-dollar economy, are running ahead of schedule and have reached the first landmark of its four-month journey across the subcontinent, a senior weather official said.

The India Meteorological Department (IMD) has forecast that the June-September monsoon will hit the mainland on May 30, two days before normal, by entering the southern state of Kerala

Monsoon rains normally reach their first landmark — the coast of the Andaman and Nicobar islands — on May 20, and Kerala on the southern tip of India by June 1.

“Today, we have declared the onset of southwest monsoon,” G.C. Debnath, director of the weather section at the Regional Meteorological Centre in the eastern city of Kolkata, told Reuters on Monday.

Good rainfall, after last year's drought, would encourage the government to ease curbs on export of wheat and rice, boost output of grain and oilseeds, and help calm inflation that has triggered widespread protests. India's wholesale price index rose 9.59 per cent in April, while the food price index rose 16.44 per cent in the year to May 1.

“Southwest monsoon has set in over parts of south Bay of Bengal, Andaman and Nicobar Islands and most parts of Andaman Sea,” IMD said in a statement on its website.

“Conditions are favourable for further advance of monsoon over other parts of Bay of Bengal and remaining parts of Andaman Sea during next 48 hours,” it said.

After last year's driest season in nearly four decades, rains this year are expected to be 98 per cent of the long-term average.

“The indications are very good and it will definitely help sentiments improve. But we have to watch its progress from Kerala and also how well distributed rains are,” said Amol Tilak, a senior analyst at Kotak Commodities.

The weather office will update its forecast next month.

Last year's drought prompted the government to drop import tax on a number of commodities, including sugar. Due to large imports by India, the world's top sugar consumer, New York raw sugar futures soared to a 29-year-high in February. Union Minister for Agriculture Sharad Pawar last week said his government would closely watch monsoon rains before easing a three-year-old ban on the export of wheat.

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