Monsoon advances, heavy showers expected in north India

New Delhi: Though the progress of the Indian monsoon has been deemed to be satisfactory and is now said to be covering almost the entire country, the sowing of key summer crops such as rice, pulses and cotton is yet to match last year's acreage.

There are no signs yet of a lull in the seasonal rains expected in the first week of July. This month is the most crucial as it accounts for a third of the seasonal rains and most of the sowing.

According to reports, planting of rice and corn is yet to pick up in key areas of southern Andhra Pradesh, one of the top producers of the two commodities.

Rice planting until 1 July is down 6.6% to 4.13 million hectares from a year earlier, while that of pulses and cotton is down 18.4% and 22.2% respectively, to 708,000 hectares and 3.5 million hectares, according to government data.

The area under sugarcane is up 4%, to 5.1 million hectares, while that under oilseeds is up 8.3% to 3.14 million hectares.

India's summer planting season starts in the last week of May and picks along with the onset of monsoon in June.

According to Met officials northern regions of the country, including Uttar Pradesh, are expected to experience heavy showers over the next three to four days, which should help the planting of rice. Met officials also expect good rains in the eastern and north-eastern regions of the country by next week.

However, there is apprehension that rainfall may be insufficient over parts of the western state of Maharashtra, a key sugar producer, and the rice-growing southern state of Andhra Pradesh.

The western state of Gujarat, the country's largest cotton and groundnut producer, may also not receive much rains, officials indicated.

The weather department had expects rainfall to slow in early July. This expectation that rainfall may dip in July has led to predictions that overall monsoons may be just short of normal this year.