India monsoon covers entire country-weather office

NEW DELHI - India's monsoon has covered the entire country, the weather office said on Thursday, two days behind the normal schedule in a year that is forecast to bring below-average rains.

The revival of monsoon rains in the grain bowl of northwest and central regions should help speed up sowing of main summer crops such as rice, corn, soybean and cotton.

Poor rains since the start of the June-September season had raised concerns of a first drought in five years.

Rains are vital to India's farm sector, which accounts for about 14 per cent of the country's nearly US$2 trillion (S$2.5 trillion) economy. Two-thirds of its 1.2 billion population live in rural areas.

Last year, monsoon rains covered the country almost a month ahead of schedule, helping grain output hit a record level.