Weak monsoon hits Indian growth

NEW DELHI, February 26, 2010 (AFP) – India’s economic growth slowed sharply in the final quarter of 2009 to 6.0 percent year on year, hit by lower farm output after the weakest monsoon in 37 years, data showed Friday. The figure for the October-December period, the third quarter of India’s fiscal year, compared with expansion of 7.9 percent in the previous quarter and 6.2 percent in the same period last year.

The data from the Central Statistical Organisation showed that output from the vital farm sector fell 2.8 percent year on year, while manufacturing increased 14.3 percent and construction was up 8.7 percent.

The contraction in farm output was due to the weak rains during the four-month monsoon last year, which hit output of a host of crops including rice, cane sugar and groundnut crops.

More than 70 percent of Indians depend on farm incomes, and about 65 percent of the nation’s farms are unirrigated and depend on the rains that fall between June and September, according to agricultural ministry figures.

Also Friday, the government was set to present its first full budget since its re-election last May against a backdrop of increasingly optimistic forecasts for economic growth in the years