by Staff Writers
New Delhi (AFP) June 5, 2012
The annual monsoon, crucial to India's food production and economic growth, arrived Tuesday on the southwest coast four days behind schedule, the meteorological department said.
Monsoon rains were recorded in the state of Kerala and will now sweep across India, bringing torrential downpours over the coming months to millions of farmers who rely on the seasonal precipitation.
"The monsoon arrived in Kerala today and it will now progress along the country's western coast," Indian Meteorological Department director B.P. Yadav told AFP.
Yadav said the strength of the rains on Tuesday was "moderate", while long-term forecasts have predicted an average monsoon this year.
The rains normally hit the southwest coast on June 1 and last until the end of September.
Indian agriculture gets 60 percent of its precipitation from the rains and a bad monsoon can spell financial disaster for the country's 235 million farmers.
While agriculture's share of India's economy has shrunk to 14 percent from 30 percent in the early 1990s, bountiful rains are still vital to national economic fortunes.
Rural spending accounts for more than 50 percent of domestic consumption and a poor monsoon hits demand for everything from refrigerators to cars.
The government is banking on a good monsoon to rein in surging food prices, as it also needs a good agricultural performance to spur recent dire growth figures.
Official figures published this month showed the Indian economy growing at 5.3 percent in the January-March period, the slowest quarterly growth figure in nine years.
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