By Mayank Bhardwaj
NEW DELHI - A rapid progress of the monsoon helped Indian farmers plant nearly 14% more land than last year with rice, corn, cane, cotton and soybean crops, according to the farm ministry.
Farmers planted more acreage of every single summer-sown crops between June 1 and July 31 than last year, brightening the prospects for a bumper output in the world's leading producer of farm commodities.
The area planted with rice, the main food crop of the world's second-most populous country, was 26.7 million hectares, compared with 22.4 million hectares in the year-earlier period.
Oilseeds planting was at 17.5 million hectares, compared with 15 million hectares. Sowing of soybeans, the main summer oilseed crop, stood at 11.7 million hectares, compared with 10.8 million hectares. Soybean output is set to jump by at least 15%
Sugar cane planting was marginally higher at 5.2 million hectares.
Planting of the protein-rich pulse, a staple in the Indian diet, was at 11.2 million hectares, higher than 9.4 million hectares last year.
Corn acreage was at 7.4 million hectares versus 7.2 million hectares in the previous year.
The area planted with cotton totalled 12.1 million hectares against 10.9 million hectares.
The monsoon covered the entire country nearly two weeks earlier than usual, helping farmers speed up planting.
Monsoon rains are critical for farm output and economic growth as about 55% of India's arable land is rain-fed.
The weather office on Friday said monsoon rains are expected to be 104% of the average in August and September.
The India Meteorological Department defines average, or normal, rainfall as between 96% and 104% of a 50-year average of 88 cm for the entire four-month season.
(Reporting by Mayank Bhardwaj; Editing by Mike Harrison)