Monsoon rains lash India's Kerala coast, two days ahead of usual

FILE PHOTO; Beachgoers react to the camera while holding an umbrella as it drizzles at the Fort Kochi beach in the southern Indian city of Kochi June 6, 2014. REUTERS/Sivaram V.

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - India's annual monsoon, which delivers about 70% of the country's rainfall, arrived on the coast of southern Kerala state on Sunday, the state-run India Meteorological Department said, two days ahead of the usual time.

The department forecast on May 13 that monsoon rains were likely to reach Kerala on May 27 and on Friday said conditions were becoming favourable for the onset of the monsoon over Kerala during the following two to three days.

One of the world's biggest producers and consumers of farm goods, India relies on monsoon rains to water almost half its farmland, which lacks irrigation. A monsoon failure can force New Delhi to import more edible oils and curb exports of some agricultural produce, sending international prices higher.

Last month the department forecast average monsoon rains for this year, raising the prospects of higher farm and overall economic growth in Asia's third-biggest economy.

The meteorological department declares the arrival of monsoon rains only after parameters measuring the consistency of rainfall over a defined geography, intensity, cloudiness and wind speed are satisfied.

It defines average, or normal, rainfall as ranging between 96% and 104% of a 50-year average of 87 cm (35 inches) for the season beginning in June.

Farming contributes around 15% to India's $2.7 trillion economy while sustaining more than half the population of 1.3 billion.

Other than watering farms and recharging aquifers and reservoirs, regular rains during the monsoon season can bring relief from the searing heat.

Plentiful monsoon rains would boost rice output from India, the world's biggest exporter of the staple. India's surprise decision to ban wheat exports had raised doubts about some curbs on the overseas sales of rice as well.

Government and industry officials told Reuters on Thursday that India did not plan to curb rice exports as the country has sufficient stocks and prices were stable.

(Reporting by Mayank Bhardwaj; Editing by William Mallard)

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