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Farmers brace for monsoon forecast after drought

India's hundreds of millions of farmers braced on Friday for this year's official monsoon forecast, with the 2010 rains of critical importance after the worst drought in three decades.

Agencies|
Last Updated: Apr 23, 2010, 12.14 PM IST|Original: Apr 23, 2010, 12.14 PM IST
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NEW DELHI: India's hundreds of millions of farmers braced on Friday for this year's official monsoon forecast, with the 2010 rains of critical importance after the worst drought in three decades.

The forecast from the national weather office relies on data from local and foreign climatologists to make the best possible prediction for the monsoon, which lasts nationwide from June to September.

More than 70 per cent of Indians depend on farm incomes, and about 65 percent of the nation's farms are not irrigated, meaning they depend entirely on the rains that fall in intense bursts over the wet season.

The drought of 2009, when the rains were 30 percent weaker than their long-term average, has hit crop yields and farm incomes, leading to much higher food prices and an increase in rural hardship.

According to a report in The Indian Express newspaper on Friday, the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) will forecast normal rains this year within the range of 96-104 percent of their long-term average.

"Monsoon rainfall rarely fails for two consecutive years," P K Bandopadhyay, a spokesman for the IMD, said.

Data from the weather office shows that out of the roughly 20 droughts India has suffered since 1901, 17 were followed by near-normal rainfall.

India is the world's second-biggest producer of rice, wheat and sugarcane.

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