NEW DELHI, Aug 7, 2009 (AFP) - India has enough food grain reserves to face "the worst monsoon scenario," a government minister said Friday, as continued low rainfall levels fuelled fears for crops.
The southwest monsoon sweeps the subcontinent from June to September and is crucial to agricultural output in India, one of the world's top producers of rice, wheat and sugar, where just 40 percent of arable land is irrigated.
"There is no panic. We have enough foodstocks to counter even the worst monsoon scenario," Highways Minister Kamal Nath told a seminar in the Indian capital.
His statement came after weather office figures showed that India's rainfall was 64 percent below normal during the past week while total rainfall since the start of the monsoon season in June was 25 percent below average.
"Whatever may be the assessment, the poor monsoon may impact rural purchasing power but not food supply," Nath said.
Food price inflation, already rising before the monsoon, has been pushed higher by the poor rainfall.
Just seven of India's 36 weather zones received normal rainfall during the last week, the weather office said.