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India's monsoon gathers pace in September, set for delayed retreat

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By Mayank Bhardwaj

NEW DELHI, Sept 23 (Reuters) - India's monsoon has gathered pace in September and seasonal rains are likely to be robust throughout the month, the chief of the state-run weather office said on Thursday, reducing the water deficit after a patchy spell in July and August.

Plentiful rains are expected to lash most parts of India until the monsoon starts withdrawing after Sept. 30, a later date than usual, Mrutyunjay Mohapatra, director general of the India Meteorological Department (IMD), told Reuters.

"Due to low-pressure areas and cyclonic circulations at regular intervals, we will not see climatic conditions suitable for the monsoon's withdrawal before Sept. 30," he said.

Monsoon rains, which are vital for India's farmers, usually arrive at the southernmost Kerala coast around June 1 and start retreating in September from the western state of Rajasthan.

Bountiful rains during the tail end of the season and a delayed retreat leave the soil moist and replenish reservoirs, helping winter crops, such as wheat, which rely on irrigation, unlike rain-fed summer crops.

After hitting the Kerala coast on June 3, the monsoon had spread to two-thirds of India by mid-June, almost 15 days earlier than expected. It tapered off in the third week of June.

Rains in June were 10% above average but 7% below average in July and 24% below average in August. So far in September, monsoon rains are 29% above average, the IMD data showed.

"September rains indicate that the monsoon has panned out in line with our expectation, and overall monsoon rains are expected to be normal for the entire season," Mohapatra said.

The IMD defines average, or normal, rainfall as between 96% and 104% of a 50-year average of 88 cms (34 inches) for the four-month season beginning in June.

The IMD said this month India was likely to receive above average rainfall in September, and overall rains were expected to be around the lower end of the average. (Reporting by Mayank Bhardwaj; Editing by Edmund Blair)

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