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Monsoon forecast offers cheer to India's farmers
by Staff Writers
New Delhi (AFP) April 12, 2016

India's meteorological department on Tuesday said it forecast an above-average monsoon this year, offering hope for farmers at a time when several regions are facing severe drought.

Key agricultural states including Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka are facing a crippling shortage of rainfall that has hurt the farming sector and forced the rationing of drinking water to some communities.

"The rainfall over the country as a whole for the southwest monsoon 2016 is likely to be above normal," Laxman Singh Rathore, director general of the India Meteorological Department, told reporters in New Delhi.

The southwest monsoon refers to India's four-month-long monsoon season, which starts in June.

In addition to the country-wide forecast, the meteorological department said that some of the worst-affected regions could also expect sufficient rains.

"These areas too will get good rainfall," Rathore said. "In all it's good news, that monsoon 2016 will be good."

Earlier on Tuesday the city of Latur in Maharashtra, one of the worst drought-hit regions in the country, received a supply of drinking water brought by a special train.

"Train with drinking water arrives at drought affected Latur early this morning. Distribution to begin soon," Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis said on Twitter.

India's agriculture sector, which employs about 60 percent of the population but contributes only around 15 percent of the country's gross domestic product, is largely monsoon-reliant.

Announcing its annual budget in February the government promised to spend billions of dollars to double the income of struggling farmers and boost the rural economy.

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