Indian monsoon advances, covers entire country before due date

After an initial hiccup, India's monsoon clouds have enveloped the entire country 12 days ahead of the expected date on July 15, according to the Indian Meteorological Department.

Planting of monsoon-sown seeds such as rice, oilseeds and sugar cane will gather momentum this month as rains have advanced, farm minister Sharad Pawar said today in parliament.

''Paddy cultivation can continue up to the first week of August,'' he said. He said the rice reserves were enough to last more than a year.

He had earlier ruled out a drought-like situation arising this year. (See: Pawar unfazed by slow monsoon, but official worried)

Though the monsoon had hit Kerala earlier than expected on May 23 instead of the usual June 1, it slowed down because of a cyclone that hit some parts of India. (See: Coy monsoon delays kharif planting)

Earlier in June, the meteorological department had revised its forecast to 93 per cent from a near-normal 96 per cent projected earlier. (See: Monsoon may be below normal, say IMD and government)