NEW DELHI, Aug 15 (Reuters) - India's monsoon rains were below average in the week ending Aug. 14, data from the weather office showed on Thursday, easing concerns about damage to crops such as soybeans and cotton.
Rainfall was 4 percent below average, compared to 1 percent below the previous week. The June to September rains were very heavy in the first half of the season, which initially helped sowing but later raised worries of crop damage.
"The monsoon rains have now eased in most parts of central and south India," said a weather official.
India, one of the world's biggest producers and consumers of farm commodities, is heavily reliant on the annual monsoon for its huge harvests of rice, sugar and cash crops like cotton.
The monsoon, crucial for 55 percent of Indian farmland that does not have irrigation, was the heaviest in nearly two decades during the first half of the season with the fastest ever coverage of the country - almost a month ahead of schedule.
The ample rains could mean higher rural incomes in the world's second most populous country, improving sales of everything from cars and gold to refrigerators. Finance Minister P. Chidambaram has already said the monsoon could help agricultural growth and spur the overall economy. (Reporting by Ratnajyoti Dutta; editing by James Jukwey)