India's monsoon rains forecast to be average in August, September

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Beachgoers stand on a seaside promenade as clouds gathered over Arabian Sea in Kochi

By Rajendra Jadhav and Mayank Bhardwaj

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - India is likely to receive an average amount of rain in August and September, the weather office said on Monday, pointing to overall good crop yields in Asia's third biggest economy that relies on farming to boost growth and generate jobs.

The state-run India Meteorological Department (IMD) defines average, or normal, rainfall as between 96% and 104% of a 50-year average of 89 cm (34 inches) for the four-month season beginning in June.

But some rice-growing states in India's east may receive below-average monsoon rains, Mrutyunjay Mohapatra, director general of the IMD, told a virtual news conference.

India is the world's biggest exporter of rice, a staple for Asia, and monsoon rains determine the size of the country's rice crop.

Good output would help India maintain its preeminent position in the global rice market, but a prolonged spell of lower or uneven rains could hit the crop.

India's top rice regions in the east - Bihar, Jharkhand and some parts of West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh states - have recorded a rainfall deficit as high as 48%. As a result, rice planting has dropped by 13% so far this season.

Traders said the forecast of lower rainfall over eastern India could hit yields of the rice crop.

India's summer-sown rice accounts for more than 85% of the country's annual production, which jumped to a record 129.66 million tonnes in the crop year to June 2022.

Overall, monsoon rains were 8% below average in June and 17% above average in July, Mohapatra said.

But India's eastern and northeastern regions have received 45% below average rainfall in the first two months of the season, the lowest in 122 years, he said.

"Rainfall is gradually becoming deficient over these regions," Mohapatra said.

The monsoon, which accounts for about 75% of India's annual rainfall, is vital as nearly half of the country's farmland doesn't have irrigation.

(Reporting by Rajendra Jadhav and Mayank Bhardwaj; editing by Mark Heinrich and Susan Fenton)

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