NEW DELHI (Reuters) – India’s annual monsoon, which provides around 70% of the country’s rainfall, arrived on the coast of southern state of Kerala on Sunday, India’s meteorological department said, two days before the usual time.

The department forecast on May 13 that the monsoon rains were likely to reach Kerala by May 27 and said on Friday that conditions would turn favorable as the monsoon started over Kerala over the next two to three days.

India, one of the largest producers and consumers of agricultural products in the world, depends on monsoon rains to water almost half of its agricultural land, which lacks irrigation. A failed monsoon can force New Delhi to import more edible oils and curb exports of some agricultural products, pushing up international prices.

Last month, the department predicted average monsoon rains for this year, raising prospects for higher agricultural and overall economic growth in Asia’s third-largest economy.

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The meteorological service declares the arrival of monsoon rains only after the parameters measuring the regularity of precipitation over a defined geography, intensity, cloudiness and wind speed are satisfied.

It defines average or normal rainfall as between 96% and 104% of a 50-year average of 87 cm (35 inches) for the season beginning in June.

Agriculture contributes about 15% to India’s $2.7 trillion economy while supporting more than half of the population of 1.3 billion.

Besides watering farms and recharging aquifers and reservoirs, regular rains during the monsoon season can relieve the scorching heat.

Abundant monsoon rains would boost rice production in India, the world’s largest exporter of the staple. India’s surprise decision to ban wheat exports had also raised doubts about some restrictions on overseas rice sales.

Government and industry officials told Reuters on Thursday that India was not planning to curb rice exports as the country has sufficient stocks and prices are stable.

(Reporting by Mayank Bhardwaj; Editing by William Mallard)

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