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Monsoon expected to deliver normal rainfall

NEW DELHI (Reuters) – The monsoon will deliver normal rainfall this year after being hindered by two tropical cyclones in two weeks, the weather office said, raising hopes of increased farm output after last year’s drought.

Clouds loom over Mumbai's skyline in this June 21, 2009 file photo. The annual monsoon is set to arrive in Mumbai on June 11, a day later than usual, Ajit Tyagi, director general of the India Meteorological Department said on Friday. REUTERS/Arko Datta/Files

The government is hoping normal rainfall will stabilise agricultural commodity prices and avoid further street protests over rising food costs.

Ajit Tyagi, director general of the India Meteorological Department told reporters that rainfall in the June-September season would be 98 percent of normal, reiterating the forecast issued in April.

Last year, the weather office had initially predicted normal rainfall but the country experienced the weakest rains in 37 years, which hit farm output and caused India to become a large importer of sugar and to overtake China as the biggest buyer of edible oils. Violent protests erupted over rising food costs.

Tyagi said the monsoon rains would soak cane and cotton-growing Maharashtra and its capital Mumbai by June 11 and New Delhi nearby regions, where rice and cane is grown, by the end of the month.

Tyagi said the Phet cyclone blowing in the Arabian sea and Laila that lashed the eastern coast late last month had hurt the progress of the monsoon but only temporarily.

“I am holding my normal forecast for the monsoon,” he said.

Tyagi added that his department expected the monsoon to revive over the southern states of Kerala and corn-growing Karnataka by this weekend.

Monsoon rains lashed India’s southern tip almost on schedule on May 31, boosting market sentiment.

“The normal onset of the monsoon in the southern coast of Kerala ... is also a key positive for domestic demand,” Goldman Sachs said in a report this week.

Weather officials said the cyclone was expected to fizzle out by early next week, enabling further advance of the monsoon.

“Monsoon is still in weak phase,” said B.P. Yadav, spokesman of the weather office.

For the week ended on June 2, the monsoon rains were at 16.7 millimetres, down 11 percent from the normal weekly rainfall of 18.8 millimetres.

Editing by Alison Birrane