New Delhi/Bhubaneswar: The country will receive "normal" monsoon rainfall this year, the Indian Meteorological Department forecast today, raising hopes for higher farm output and a boost to the rains-dependent rural economy.

Nearly 50 per cent of India's cultivable farm area depend on the monsoon, making it lifeline of the country's rural economy and agriculture sector that has been lagging the overall economic growth rate.

The monsoon will be 97 per cent of long period average (LPA), which is normal for the season, IMD Director General K G Ramesh told reporters. The error margin in the forecast is plus/minus 5 per cent.

He said there was "very less probability" of a deficient monsoon. The four-month monsoon season from June to September provides about 75 per cent of annual rainfall to the country.

Over 50 per cent of the country's population is dependent on farming and about 15 per cent of the GDP comes from agriculture and allied sectors.

While Ramesh said it would be the third consecutive year of 'normal' monsoon in 2018, the country had recorded 95 per cent rains during the monsoon period in 2017. Since October saw further rains, the overall rainfall for the last year can be considered as normal, Ramesh said.

The monsoon rainfall during 2016 was 97 per cent, while it was below normal at 86 per cent in 2015.

The monsoon is considered normal if the average rainfall is between 96-104 per cent of the long period average. Anything less than 90 per cent of LPA is termed a 'deficient', and 90-96 per cent of the same is considered 'below normal'.

Enthused by the Met Department's forecast of a normal monsoon, Agriculture Secretary S K Pattanayak said the country's foodgrain production may surpass this year's record high of 277.49 million tonne.

"The normal monsoon will boost kharif sowing that will start from June. We expect foodgrain output to surpass this year's record," Pattanayak told PTI.

"The forecast (for 2018) suggests maximum probability for normal monsoon and low probability for deficient rainfall," Ramesh said.

There is 14 per cent chance of a deficient rainfall and 30 per cent chance of a below-normal precipitation.

The chance for a normal rainfall is 42 per cent, 12 per cent for above normal rainfall and 2 per cent chance for excess precipitation.

Several parts of India are witnessing agriculture distress and a good rainfall is likely to provide some relief. Economists expect a good monsoon season to provide the much-needed boost to household income and consumer demand in rural areas, and also help bring down the food inflation.

D S Pai, a scientist with the IMD, said the La Nina condition is weakening and is highly likely to enter a neutral phase.

The Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD) is negative, but even that is reducing, Ramesh said. "Neutral La Nina is not detrimental for the Monsoon," Ramesh said.

La Nina is associated with cooling of the equatorial Pacific waters, while El Nino is associated with the warming of these waters.

A positive IOD is associated with cooling of the equatorial waters of the Indian Ocean and a negative IOD is associated with the warming of these waters.

These phenomena are one of the factors that impact the monsoon.

The date of onset of monsoon will be announced by the middle of May. Ramesh said it will also release the area wise distribution of rainfall by May end or early June.

Private weather forecasting agency Skymet recently said that the country is likely to receive 100 per cent of the LPA rainfall this monsoon season.

There was only 20 per cent chance of above normal monsoon rains, 20 per cent chance of below normal rains and zero per cent chance of a drought while June would record excess rainfall, July is likely to be normal and August below normal, Skymet had said.

Rainfall activity will pick up again in September, Skymet had said.

There will be slight deficiency of monsoon rains in southern peninsular and north eastern parts for a month, but that would be recovered, Agriculture Secretary Pattanayak said.

The normal monsoon forecast augurs well for agriculture and the overall economy, he added.