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Page last updated at 11:25 GMT, Wednesday, 30 September 2009 12:25 UK

India drought 'worst since 1972'

By Chris Morris
BBC News, Delhi

A farm in India
Below normal monsoon rains have been responsible for the drought

India suffered its weakest monsoon for nearly 40 years, the country's meteorological department says.

Rainfall nationwide is 23% below average at the end of the monsoon season, making it the worst drought since 1972, officials said.

India is the world's second biggest producer of rice, wheat and sugar and millions of farmers in rural India rely on the monsoon to grow their crops.

Officials admit the weak monsoon will have a negative impact on the economy.

The four-month monsoon season officially ended on Wednesday.

There are regional differences - the north-west had the worst rainfall deficit at 36% while the southern part of the country was just 7% below average.

And things could have been worse - rains returned to many parts of the country in August after an extremely dry period in June.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has already said there are ample food stocks to ensure there is no threat of widespread hunger.

But many farmers are struggling with a lack of irrigation, and facing financial crisis, while the price of some basic food stuffs like sugar has risen sharply because of the expectation of low crop yields.

Officials say the weak monsoon will have a negative impact on the country's overall economy at a time when other sectors of the economy are beginning to shrug off the effects of the global downturn.



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