Monsoon seen arriving a few days late

Rains may come a bit late this year as the southwestern monsoon is likely to set over Kerala on 5 June against the normal date of 1 June, with a model error of 4 days, according to the weather office.

The monsoon is likely to advance over the Andaman Sea during the next three days, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) said.

IMD has set 1 June as the normal date of onset of the monsoon over the mainland, starting with Kerala.

For India, which is mostly dependant on the monsoons for its water requirements, a delayed onset raises fears of poor rains in the initial days of a monsoon season, which is already facing the threat of the El Nino weather pattern.

The IMD, which uses six predictors - including minimum temperature over north-west India and pre-monsoon rainfall peak over south peninsula, said the margin for error in prediction is four days.

The onset of the southwest monsoon over Kerala heralds the rainy season in India and, perhaps the success or failure of the government that will assume power around that time.

Monsoon rains are important to growth for Asia's third-largest economy as it battles its worst slowdown and high levels of inflation that has averaged nearly 10 per cent for the past two years.

Agriculture accounts for 14 per cent of India's nearly $2 trillion economy, with two-thirds of its 1.2 billion population living in rural areas. Half of the country's farmland lacks access to irrigation.

Poor rains could hit sowing of summer crops such as soybeans, rice, corn and cotton, raising food prices and pressuring economic growth that has nearly halved to below 5 per cent in the past two years.