India's monsoon seen above-average in Sept; distribution remains a concern

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FILE PHOTO: Heavy rains in Mumbai

By Rajendra Jadhav

MUMBAI (Reuters) - India is likely to receive 9% more rainfall than the average in September, the weather office said on Thursday, although uneven distribution could trim yields of summer-sown crops in Asia's third biggest economy that relies on farming to boost growth and generate jobs.

"Normal to above normal rainfall probability is likely over most parts of India except many parts northeast India, and some parts of east and northwest India where below normal rainfall is likely," the state-run India Meteorological Department (IMD) said in a statement.

Cotton, soybean and pulses growing regions in central and western India could get significantly more rainfall than the average, while rice growing eastern and north-eastern regions could get below-normal rainfall, the IMD said.

Summer-sown crops usually become ready for harvesting by September end and excessive rainfall during the period could damage the crops, especially cotton and soybean, said a Mumbai-based dealer with a global trading firm.

"Rice planting has been delayed this year in eastern states. They need average rainfall, but IMD's forecast suggests below-normal rainfall in this region. This could further hit the rice crop," the dealer said.

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.

India's top rice regions in the east - Bihar, Jharkhand and some parts of the states of West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh - have recorded a rainfall deficit as high as 44%. As a result, rice planting has dropped by 6% so far this season.

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 is considering whether to restrict exports of 100% broken rice, government and industry officials told Reuters on Friday, with the paddy area reduced by a lack of rainfall.

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; Editing by Shailesh Kuber)