* Monsoon runs four days late than schedule
* Rains continue to display a weak phase-weather official
* Rains may pick up in soybean, rice areas next week
(Adds quotes from farm lobby group, details)
By Ratnajyoti Dutta
NEW DELHI, June 19 The monsoon has covered half
of India's landmass four days behind the usual schedule, failing
to recover from a late start that has slowed sowing of summer
crops in a country where half of the farmland still lacks
India's farming sector accounts for about 14 percent of its
nearly $2 trillion economy. Inadequate rains can not only hurt
farm output but also stoke inflation, a cause of major concern
for the new government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The annual rains arrived over the southern Kerala coast five
days behind the normal June 1 start and then entered a lull,
with poor rains over the interior parts of southern India.
Rainfall was 45 percent below average for the week ended
June 18, compared with 48 percent below average the previous
week, weather office data showed on Thursday.
"Rainfall has increased in some parts of the central region,
but monsoon has continued to be weak," said a weather official
who did not want to be named.
Weather officials, however, expect the monsoon to strengthen
over the soybean growing areas of central India and rice growing
areas of southeastern region in the next week.
P. Chengal Reddy, head of the lobby group Consortium of
Indian Farmers Association, said farmers were waiting for the
monsoon rains to gather momentum to speed up sowing.
In the initial days of the June-September monsoon season,
summer crops are not hugely affected by the quantity of rains.
But its distribution in mid-July after the monsoon covers the
entire country is important for their growth.
Sowing activities of major summer crops such as rice, corn,
soybean, cane and cotton have started in many areas but at a
"The northwest belt can withstand delay in sowing up to 10
days, deriving benefits of healthy soil moisture due to good
pre-monsoon showers," Farm Commissioner J.S. Sandhu said, adding
that farmers could also turn to reservoirs, in which water
levels are up around 25 percent this year compared with year-ago
Favourable reservoir levels and plenty of government grain
stocks could help mitigate the impact of poor rain this year,
according to the Indian Council for Research on International
Earlier this week the government imposed export curbs on
onions and ordered a crackdown on hoarding to check food price
rises, after wholesale price inflation hit a five-month high in
India's weather office has forecast below average rainfall
in 2014 due to fears of El Nino, a weather event marked by the
warming of sea surface temperatures in the Pacific Ocean that
can lead to droughts in the Asia Pacific region including India.
The Australian Bureau of Meteorology's latest forecast put
the chance of El Nino at 70 percent.
(Editing by Krishna Das and Jane Baird)