Mon Jun 17, 2013 08:12 AM CDT

NEW DELHI (Dow Jones) -- This year's southwest monsoon has covered all of India about a month ahead of normal, helping improve prospects for bountiful harvests, slower food inflation and reduced interest rates.

The timing, distribution and the quantity of monsoon rains are crucial for the planting of summer crops such as rice, oilseeds, sugar cane and cotton, and for the livelihood of nearly half of India's mostly rural population. Nearly a quarter of India was hit by drought last year, which helped underpin food inflation which has hovered near double digits for most of the past two years, crimping ...

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