New Delhi: Monsoon rains, crucial to farm-dependent Indian economy, were 31% below average up to July 2, but the situation is not too serious, Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar said Tuesday, adding that seasonal showers are likely to pick-up from next week.
"Yes, monsoon has been delayed by two weeks... but situation is not serious as it is made out to be. We expect the rainfall to pick up by next week," Pawar told reporters after growing concerns over the pause in the progress of monsoon rains that have failed to cover as much of the country as expected.
Normal monsoon is indispensable for Indian economy as over 60% of the country's population depends on agriculture and allied activities for livelihood. However, agriculture contributes only about 16% to the country's gross domestic product (GDP).
Low rain output has affected early sowing in few states including Maharashtra, Karnataka, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, parts of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, Pawar said.
The country's depleting water reservoirs, which need to be urgently refilled with rain water to generate electricity and irrigate paddy fields for the remaining year, has upset crop planting and also led to acute shortage in drinking water and power.
Currently, 84 major water reservoirs pan-India are filled to 16% of capacity against 27% a year ago.
Scanty rain showers have led to the drying up of four water reservoirs in Maharashtra state and five in Karnataka state.
However, states are prepared with their contingency plan and have been instructed to keep sufficient feed ready, Pawar said.
Also, the government is ready to utilize its rising stocks of food grains, overflowing in warehouses and hand out seeds for replanting, he added.
Earlier Monday, India Meteorological Department (IMD) Director S C Bhan had said that monsoon rains will gain momentum in the next forty-eight hours and are expected to travel northwards in the next two days.
In June, the IMD predicted that rainfall in July is likely to be 98% of the long period average.
India, with a population of about 1.2 billion, is the world's second-biggest producer of rice, wheat, sugar and cotton and also one of the largest consumers.