India's monsoon rains below average levels for a fourth week

(Reuters) - India’s monsoon rains were below average for a fourth straight week due to scant seasonal rainfall over central and western parts of the country, raising concerns about production of summer-sown crops such as rice, soybeans and cotton.

FILE PHOTO: Women plant rice saplings at a paddy field in a village in Nagaon district, in the northeastern state of Assam, India, July 3, 2018. REUTERS/Anuwar Hazarika

The monsoon - which accounts for 70% of India’s annual rainfall and is the lifeblood of its $2.5 trillion economy - has delivered 36% lower-than-normal rainfall since the start of the season on June 1, according to data compiled by the India Meteorological Department.

(GRAPHIC: India's rainfall deficit -

However, the deficit has narrowed to 36% from last week’s 43%, the data showed.

(GRAPHIC: India's rainfall distribution by subdivisions -

Sowing of summer crops such as cotton, rice, soybeans, corn and pulses has been lower than last year due to the late arrival of monsoon rains this year.

(GRAPHIC: India's sowing levels -

A decent improvement in rainfall in the coming weeks remains critical for the sowing of summer crops, analysts said.

If there isn’t a turnaround in conditions, agricultural output could be hit badly and hurt an already slowing economy as rural demand sags.

(GRAPHIC: Weighting of agri-commodities in India's CPI -

Reporting By Patturaja Murugaboopathy; Editing by Martin Howell and David Evans