UPDATE 1-India's crops lap up heavy rain half way through monsoon

Thu Jul 25, 2013 9:40am EDT

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By Ratnajyoti Dutta

NEW DELHI, July 25 (Reuters) - Heavy monsoon rains next week will help India's crops, especially oilseeds and cotton in the west, eight weeks, or halfway, into the wet season.

Rains have been mostly above average in major crop growing areas, meaning little chance of drought this year and raising the likelihood of higher rural incomes in the world's second most populous country - improving sales of everything from cars and gold to refrigerators.

Last week saw particularly heavy rains in the southern state of Andhra Pradesh and western state of Maharashtra.

"Flash floods occurred in Andhra Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh, but no major damage to crops has been reported so far as water in the affected areas has started receding," said J.S. Sandhu, the country's farm commissioner.

Flood water can be detrimental to standing crops if it stagnates, otherwise heavy rains do not necessarily cause major damage to the planted crops.

Last week's heavy showers in Maharashtra led to some damage to planted crops, raising output concerns for soybean, cotton and pulses. The state is the second biggest producer of soybean and cotton. It is also the top producer of summer-sown pulses.

"Crops needs a dry spell of at least a week to recover," said an official at Maharashtra agriculture department.

Heavy rains in the leading rubber producing southern state of Kerala are also expected to hit the process of tapping, possibly trimming July output in comparison with last year.

In the week ending July 24, rains were 17 percent above average after equaling the average in the previous week.

The rains, which came in heavily at the start of the June to September season, slowed during the last couple of weeks, giving a breather to most of the planted crops.

The majority of crops except rice are now in their last leg of planting in the country, where 55 percent of farmland relies on monsoon rains as it is without irrigation.

Rice planting is almost complete in northwest India, but still on in most parts of the eastern region and in the northeast.

Heavy rains in pockets of south and western regions which had a drought last year meant higher acreage was planted this year with crops such as rice, corn, pulses, soybean and cotton.

Farm ministry officials said sowing of corn has received a boost this year in the northwest region under a crop diversification programme as it absorbs less water for growth.

They held to the ministry's forecast for record output for most of the summer crops, as the area under coverage is higher than normal and much higher than a year ago, when the monsoon's start was delayed and patchy.

India recorded the highest ever food grain production in the 2010/11 crop year with 257 million tonnes, including 104 million tonnes of rice, the main grain crop of the South Asian country. (Additional reporting by Rajendra Jadhav in MUMBAI; Editing by Jo Winterbottom and William Hardy)

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