By Mayank Bhardwaj
NEW DELHI (Reuters) - India's crucial monsoon rains, which turned patchy at the tail-end of June, will pick up later this week, a weather department official said, helping farmers accelerate planting of summer-sown crops and easing concerns about dry weather conditions.
"The monsoon is likely to revive over southern India by July 8 and over central and northwestern India by July 10, and rains are likely to gather pace by July 11, when a low-pressure area will create more favourable conditions," Mrutyunjay Mohapatra, director-general of the India Meteorological Department (IMD) told Reuters in an interview.
After lashing the southernmost Kerala coast on June 3, the monsoon covered two-thirds of India by the end of the first half of the month, nearly 15 days earlier than normal. As a result, rains were above average during the first three weeks of June, before the monsoon tapered off.
While overall monsoon rains were still 10% above average in June, they have been 46% below average so far in July - a crucial month for planting crops such as rice, corn, cane, cotton, and soybean.
The IMD defines average, or normal, rainfall as between 96% and 104% of a 50-year average of 88 cm for the entire four-month season beginning in June.
According to the IMD, rainfall is likely to be average in July and ultimately over the whole season to the end of September.
"Better rains in the second half of July will make up for the shortfall that we have seen in early July. Also...rain-fed areas of central India are likely to get good rainfall, and that's good news," Mohapatra said.
Nearly half of India's farmland has no irrigation and is dependent on monsoon rains that account for 70%-90% of annual rainfall. Farming contributes almost 15% to India's $2.7 trillion economy but sustains more than half the population of 1.3 billion.
(Reporting by Mayank Bhardwaj; Editing by Kirsten Donovan)