UPDATE 1-India's monsoon seen better in second half, boosts economic outlook

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NEW DELHI, Aug 3 (Reuters) - India's monsoon rains, the lifeblood of its economy, should recover in August and September from below-average levels at the start of the season, the weather office said on Friday, supporting farm income and broader economic growth.

The farm sector accounts for about 14 percent of India's $2 trillion economy and employs more than half of the country's 1.3 billion people.

India received below average rainfall in the first two months of its annual June-September monsoon season, according to India Meteorological Department (IMD) data.

"The rainfall for the country as a whole during the second half of the season is likely to be 95 percent of the long-period average," the IMD said.

A spell of good rains could keep a lid on inflation by holding down food prices, potentially tempting Prime Minister Narendra Modi to bring forward general elections due in May 2019.

India expects to receive rainfall measuring 97 percent of the long-term average in 2018, but the IMD has on average forecast the monsoon season accurately only once in every five years, even after allowing for a margin of error of plus or minus 5 percentage points.

Farmers have planted summer crops on 73.8 million hectares of land as of July 27, down 7.5 percent from a year ago, the Department of Agriculture Cooperation and Farmers Welfare said.

India is the world's biggest producer of cotton, pulses and second biggest producer of sugar and rice. It is also the world's biggest importer of edible oils such as palm oil and soyoil.

Farmers have planted summer crops on 73.8 million hectares of land as of July 27, down 7.5 percent from a year ago, the Department of Agriculture Cooperation and Farmers Welfare said.

India is the world's biggest producer of cotton, pulses and second-biggest producer of sugar and rice. It is also the world's biggest importer of edible oils such as palm oil and soyoil. (Reporting by Sudarshan Varadhan; Editing by Vyas Mohan and Eric Meijer)