Planting of summer-sown crops such as soybean, cotton, rice and corn has been delayed by at least two weeks because of the slow progress of monsoon rains in central and western parts of the country, raising concerns over lower production.
Lower production of soybeans could force India to increase imports of edible oils such as palm oil and soyoil, while a drop in cotton output could limit the world's biggest fibre producer's exports. Lower rice output could hit shipments from India, which is the world's biggest exporter.
Farmers have so far planted summer-sown crops on 8.22 million hectares (20.3 million acres), down 9% compared with the same period a year ago, according to provisional data from the Ministry of Agriculture. Cotton sowing is down 9.4%, while soybean planting has lagged by 51% during the period.
Monsoon rainfall was 43% lower than normal so far in June, but in some states, such as Maharashtra, the rainfall deficit was as high as 68%, data compiled by India Meteorological Department (IMD) showed.
In Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh, key producers of soybean, cotton, sugar and pulses, rainfall will remain below average this week but could pick up from the week after, said a senior IMD official, who declined to be named.
"From the next week, the monsoon could gain momentum," the official said.
Typically, the monsoon covers most parts of Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh by mid-June, but so far this year monsoon has not even fully covered the southern state of Karnataka, a producer of sugar and corn, IMD data showed.
Monsoons deliver about 70% of India's annual rainfall and are the lifeblood of its $2.5 trillion economy, spurring farm output and boosting rural spending on items ranging from gold to cars, motorcycles and refrigerators.
"Rainfall delay is a cause of concern for oilseed farmers. If rainfall delays further, it could change sowing patterns and could hurt crop yields as well," said B.V. Mehta, executive director of the Solvent Extractors' Association of India (SEA).
Farmers cannot use water from reservoirs as many have dried up in western India after the region received lower rainfall than normal in 2018, he said.
For the June to September monsoon season, the country is likely to receive 96% of the average of rainfall received during the past 50 years, the IMD forecast last month.