India's monsoon rainfall was 36% below average in the week to June 6, the weather office said on Thursday, after the seasonal rains missed their usual arrival date of June 1 in south India.
The rains are crucial for farm output and economic growth as about 55% of the south Asian nation's arable land is rain-fed, and the farm sector makes up about 15% of a nearly $2-trillion economy that is Asia's third-biggest.
"Farmers have started sowing rice, pulses and cotton in some areas and production prospects are still good as the monsoon is expected to be normal," said AK Singh, deputy director-general of the state-run Indian Council of Agricultural Research.
Crops are not greatly affected by the volume of rain in the initial stages of the four-month long rainy season, but the distribution of rainfall in mid-July, after the monsoon has covered the entire country, is critical for their growth.
"Rainfall activities have improved over the west coast and northeast region," said a senior official of the India Meteorological Department (IMD), who asked not to be identified.
The monsoon hit Kerala on Tuesday, four days after its usual arrival date, as a cyclone on the west coast had stalled the onset of the rains.
Rains in some west coast areas
India's weather office had predicted a June 1 start for the rains, with a four-day margin of error.
Its forecast of average rainfall for the whole season, which runs from June to September, would make this year the third in a row to escape a drought.
Weather officials said the rains had arrived in west coast areas where cane, tea, coffee, rubber and cotton are grown, while growing areas in eastern India still await rain to speed up rice planting.
"We expect rains to cover more parts of south and eastern India next week," the weather official said.
The monsoon rains enter the soybean areas of central India after the second week of June, by which point half of the country is being covered by the rains.
The IMD is expected to release its outlook for the rest of the monsoon during the third week of June. Weekly bulletins on rainfall continue during the season.