By Mayank Bhardwaj
NEW DELHI - Indian farmers have planted 69.2 million hectares with summer crops, up 21.2% from this time a year earlier, according to the Ministry of Agriculture & Farmers' Welfare, boosted by bountiful monsoon rains that spurred sowing in most parts of the country.
Farmers typically start planting their summer-sown crops June 1, when monsoon rains usually reach India. Planting usually continues until the end of July or early August.
Planting of rice, the key summer crop, was at 16.8 million hectares as of July 17 versus 14.2 million hectares in the previous year, the ministry said.
The area planted with cotton was at 11.3 million hectares versus 9.6 million hectares the prior year.
Planting of overall oilseeds, including soybean - the main summer oilseed crop - was at 15.5 million hectares, up from 11 million hectares from the previous year.
Soybean sowing in India, the world's biggest buyer of cooking oils, looks likely to jump by at least 15% in 2020.
Sugarcane sowing in the world's biggest sugar producer reached 5.1 million hectares compared with 5 million hectares last year.
The figures are provisional and subject to revision as updates arrive with the progress of the June-September monsoon season.
The world's leading producer of most farm goods has received 10% above average rainfall since June 1.
India's state-run weather office defines average, or normal, rainfall as between 96% and 104% of a 50-year average of 88 cm for the entire four-month season.
Water levels in India's main reservoirs are substantially higher thanks to higher-than-average rains so far in the season, according to the latest government data.
(Reporting by Mayank Bhardwaj. Editing by Gerry Doyle)