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2011 Monsoon Rains Arrival Seen On Time

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Monsoon is likely to enter India through the southern Kerala coast on May 31, the weather office said on Friday, marking the start of the four-month rainy season that is forecast to be normal this year, possibly boosting the farm sector.

"The date of onset of south-west monsoon over Kerala is likely to be on May 31, with a model error of plus, minus of four days," state-run India Meteorological Department (IMD) said in a statement.

Monsoon starts over Kerala and covers the rest of India and neighbouring countries by mid-July. The rains, which irrigate 60 percent of India's farms, are crucial for rural growth as about 600 million people are dependent on farming.

The IMD also said the rains were likely to arrive over the Andamans coast around May 20. A normal monsoon means the country receives rainfall between 96-104 percent of a 50-year average of 89 centimetres during the four-month rainy season.

Last week, P.V. Joseph, a former director at the IMD said monsoon was on track to arrive near the normal date of June 1, give or take two days.

Higher agricultural supplies triggered by normal rains could encourage the Indian government to allow overseas sale of wheat and lift export curbs on rice.

Further, normal rainfall levels can reduce demand for diesel, used to pump water from wells for irrigation when rainfall is scant, and impact demand for gold as purchases get a boost when farming incomes rise amid high crop output. Rural areas account for about 70 percent of India's annual gold consumption.

Earlier this month, IMD Director General Ajit Tyagi told Reuters in an interview that monsoon rains were expected to withdraw on schedule, unlike last year when late end-season rains hit sugar output in the world's biggest consumer.