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Summer crop sowing speeding up as monsoon covers half of India

MUMBAI (Reuters) - Indian farmers are set to speed up the planting of summer crops as annual monsoon rains have covered more than half of the country and delivered more rainfall than normal, a weather department official and an agriculture analyst said on Tuesday.

FILE PHOTO: Farmers plant saplings in a rice field on the outskirts of Ahmedabad, India, July 5, 2019. REUTERS/Amit Dave/File Photo

Monsoons deliver about 70% of India’s annual rainfall and are the lifeblood of its $2.5 trillion economy, spurring farm output and boosting rural spending on items ranging from gold to cars, motorcycles and refrigerators.

The monsoon has already covered all of southern and eastern India and conditions are favourable for further advancement into northern India this week, a senior official with the state-run India Meteorological Department said.

Since the season began on June 1, the rains brought by the monsoon have been 29% greater than normal, weather department data shows, particularly as a cyclone, Nisarga, brought heavy rain earlier this month to the west coast.

The early arrival of monsoon rains in many parts of the country and higher water in reservoirs have accelerated planting of summer crops, said Subhranil Dey, a senior research analyst at commodity brokerage SMC Comtrade Ltd.

“Timely arrival of the monsoon and a hike in crop prices could lead to higher area this year,” he said.

India has raised the prices at which it will buy new-season summer crops from local farmers.

Farmers have planted summer-sown crops on 9.26 million hectares (22.9 million acres) as of June 12, up 13.2% compared with the same period a year ago, according to provisional data from the Ministry of Agriculture. Cotton sowing was up 23%, while rice planting rose by 15% during the period.

India is the world’s biggest exporter of rice and the biggest cotton producer. A rise in rice and cotton production could lead to higher exports of the grain and fibre.

Oilseed plantings have risen 312% from a year ago, which could help the world’s biggest edible oil importer trim overseas purchases.

Reporting by Rajendra Jadhav; editing by Christian Schmollinger