India's monsoon about a fifth above average in past week

NEW DELHI - India's monsoon rains were about a fifth more than average in the week ending July 24, data from the weather office showed on Thursday, as their strength powers on nearly half way through the season despite slowing last week.

Rains picked up in areas growing cane, oilseeds, pulses and cotton - regions highly dependent on the monsoon.

Heavy rains over most parts of central and western regions pushed the downpours to be 17 per cent above average in the past week, after a flat average in the previous week.

Most crops except rice are now in their last leg of planting in the country, where 55 per cent of farmland relies on monsoon rains as it is without irrigation.

Eight weeks into this year's monsoon, rains have so far been mostly above average, suggesting India is well on track to avoid a drought and farmers have taken advantage to plant much more land with summer crops than usual, with the exception of sugar cane and some lentils, which are lagging.

This could mean higher rural incomes in the world's second most populous country, improving sales of everything from cars and gold to refrigerators.