Jul 20, 2009
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More rain forecast in India, crop sowing up

Jul 20, 2009

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - India's weather office has forecast widespread rainfall in most regions, calming fears a poor start to the monsoon would damage crops in the country where only 40 percent of the farmland is irrigated.

Photo: REUTERS/Parth Sanyal

Farm Minister Sharad Pawar said crop sowing had accelerated in the past week as rainfall increased after the worst start to the annual monsoon season in more than 80 years.

In rice-growing regions, where farmers sow seeds in a nursery and shift the saplings to fields, transplantation had increased 76 percent in the past week, Pawar told reporters.

"There has been substantial improvement in planting as rains have improved in the last one week," he said.

Monsoon rains have picked up in the past week but the progress has been uneven, causing floods in some areas and drought in some districts which are not major crop producers.

In the coastal Orissa state in eastern India, floods and heavy rains have killed 23 people, hit cargo handling at the Paradeep part, and slowed down rice sowing.

"Sowing is completed only in 33 per cent of the total 3.8 million hectares," A.K. Padhee, Orissa agriculture director, told Reuters.

The India Meteorological Department said heavy rains are expected in the western Gujarat state, a key cotton and oilseeds producer, and many places in Madhya Pradesh where soybean is being planted.

The weather office also predicted rains in parts of Jharkhand, where the local government has said some districts are drought-hit.

Rainfall is expected to increase, the weather office said.

"Active monsoon condition is likely to continue with the likely formation of a low pressure area over northwest Bay of Bengal," it said in its outlook for July 19-21.

"Fairly widespread rainfall activity is likely over west coast, central India, east and northwest India," it said.

A weak start to the vital June-September monsoon rains stoked fears of crop failure, encouraging the government to ban wheat exports and prepare contingency plans.

But the weather office said on Wednesday 15 July that rainfall had improved in the preceding two days and Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee said while the slow progress of monsoons was a concern, the situation was not alarming.

(By Himangshu Watts. Additional reporting by Mayank Bhardwaj and Jatindra Dash)

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