September 10, 2003



Indian Monsoon Best in Five Years; Big Harvest in Crop Seen


India, currently, experiencing the heaviest monsoon rains in five years, is gearing up for bumper rice and oilseed crops when harvesting begins in early October, weather officials and traders said on Wednesday.


The country received 104 percent of long-term average rainfall at the end of August while rainfall was 108 percent of the long-term average in June and July, the first two months of the season.


Last year the country was hit by the worst drought in 15 years with rains dipping to 70 percent of the average in June and July.


"The best part about this year's monsoon has been it was evenly spread," S.K. Srivastava, Additional Director General of India's Meteorological Department, told Reuters.


Traders said rice and oilseed plantings, the main winter crops, were progressing well and output was expected to be much higher than last year due also to an increase in crop acreage.


Winter crops, comprising mainly rice, cotton, groundnut and soybean, are sown in the monsoon months of June and July and harvested in the winter months of October and November.


Traders said the 2003/04 (July-June) rice output was likely to be around 95 million tonnes compared with 76.91 million tonnes last year. India produced 93.1 million tonnes of rice in 2001-02.


Winter soybean and groundnut output together have been estimated at 11 million tonnes. The country produced around 4.3 million tonnes of soybean and 3.07 million tonnes of groundnut last winter.


"There are reports of fungus threatening the groundnut crop in Gujarat but still more than five million tonnes is achievable," Atul Chaturvedi, vice-president of Adani Exports Ltd, said.




Weather officials said the monsoon was still active in several regions and there was no sign of an end to the rains.


The country recorded 103.99 percent of long period average rainfall in the 1998 monsoon season and the average has been below 100 percent for the past four years.


A good oilseed crop is likely to cut edible oil imports by India, the world's largest buyer, boost prospects of soymeal sales and pave the way for resumption of rice exports, which were halted in July after stocks fell.


Industry officials said India has already signed export deals for 425,000 tonnes of soymeal from the new crop compared with 200,000 tonnes at this time last year.