“Climate change is no longer some far-off problem; it is happening here, it is happening now” – Barack Obama, 44th U.S. President
Our Prime Minister’s goal of doubling farmers income is facing contemporary hurdles of Indian Agriculture particularly “its vulnerability to climate change” points out Economic survey 2017-18. It was studied well when requirement of long term policy to tackle Climate vulgarities with ‘India specific’ quality data and at a time where land and water constraints are looming.
Economic survey 2017-18 has documented the changes in climatic patterns in temperature and rainfall over the past six decades. Further it has estimated the effects of fluctuations in weather on Agricultural productivity. Finally it has used the above estimates in conjunction with predicted changes in climate over long run to arrive at the impact of Global warming on Indian Agriculture.
It noted that “the impact of temperature and rainfall is felt only in the extreme, that is when temperature are much higher, rainfall are significant lower and number of dry days are greater than normal.” The average increase in temperature between 1970s and last decade is about 0.45 and 0.63 degree celsius in kharif and rabi seasons respectively. During the same period, kharif rainfall has declined on average by 26 millimeters and rabi rainfall by 33 millimeters and the annual average rainfall declines by about 86 millimeters.
Survey also brings out spatial response to temperature and rainfall ‘with district level data’. Temperature increase have been particularly felt in North East, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Rajasthan and Gujarat. States such as Punjab, Odisha, Uttar Pradesh have been least affected. Further, Rainfall deficiencies are concentrated in Uttar Pradesh, North East, Kerala, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand. Increase in precipitation is felt in Gujarat, Odisha and Andhra Pradesh.
Besides level of rainfall, the number of dry days (days during the monsoon with rainfall less than 0.1 millimeters) exerts a significant negative influence on crop productivity. “Each additional dry day during the monsoon reduces yield by 0.2 percent on average and by 0.3 percent in unirrigated lands” claims the survey.
It also puts forth the varied response of climate change factors to irrigated and unirrigated areas. “..(extreme weather) shocks have much greater effect on unirrigated areas compared to irrigated areas.” Survey points out that farmer income losses from climate change could be between 15 percent and 18 percent on average, but raising between 20 percent to 25 percent in unirrigated lands. At present, only about 45 percent of farm lands are under irrigation.
Finding also relates to varied susceptibility of different crops to temperature and precipitation. “Crops grown in Rainfed areas – pulses in both kharif and rabi are vulnerable to weather shocks while the cereals both rice and wheat are relatively more immune.” the survey stated. Survey points out problems of non-cereal crops in central, western and southern India is ‘different’ – with inadequate irrigation, continued rain dependence, and insufficient investment in research and technology. More broadly, it calls for the review of cereal-centricity of policy to secure farm income and productivity of 52 percent of rainfed region farmers.
To minimize susceptibility to climate change, the economic survey calls for an increase in spread of irrigation by more resource allocation to ‘per drop more crop’ campaign against the backdrop of severe ground water scarcity. Further it notes that anticipatory research has to be undertaken to build climate resilient crops particularly pulses and soybeans.
It envisages to broaden the scope of crop insurance with weather based models and deployment of technology to access crop losses if any. Since Agriculture is a state subject, Survey advocates GST council like mechanism to bring up political economy questions related to Agriculture between states (cooperative federalism), in order to bring up more reforms in the Agriculture sector and boost the farming income.