Climate Change: Impact on Indian Agriculture

  • Parliamentary Standing Committee on Agriculture has observed that extreme weather events are costing India $9-10 billion annually.
  • It also observed that climate change is projected to impact agricultural productivity with increasing severity from 2020 to the end of the century.
  • Changes in the intensity, frequency, and seasonality of climate patterns, extreme weather events, rainfall pattern and river flows etc. are likely to impact agriculture sector.
Impact of Climate Change on Indian Weather pattern:
  • Impact on rainfall: Monsoon rain might increase as a consequence of heat-induced acceleration in the hydrological cycle.
  • Unpredicted weather pattern: The incidence of severe and extended dry spells, interspersed with heavy downpour, might also increase.
Impact of Climate Change on agriculture:
  • Decrease in Productivity :
    • According to the vulnerability assessment done by the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), the overall productivity of paddy, irrigated paddy, wheat, maize might decrease between 2050 and 2080.
    • The decrease in productivity of major crops will be marginal in the next few years but it could fall to as much as 10-40% by 2100 unless farming adapts to climate change-induced changes in weather.
    • Major crops such as wheat, rice, oilseeds, pulses, fruits and vegetables will see reduced yields over the years.
    • It could turn India into a major importer of oilseeds, pulses and even milk.
    • Adaptation to climate change will need different cropping patterns and suitable inputs to compensate yield fluctuations.
  • Benefit to few crops: Though most crops will see reduced production, but climate change may also help improve yields of soybean, chickpea, groundnut, coconut (western coast) and potato (in Punjab, Haryana and western Uttar Pradesh)
  • Drop-in farm income. The government’s Economic Survey 2018 reports that every one-degree Celsius rise in temperature could reduce agricultural income by 6.2% in kharif and 6% in the rabi season in non-irrigated areas.
  • Other challenges: Reduces water availability, variations in the incidence of pests and pathogens (crop diseases).
Socio-Economic Impact:
  • Food Security :
    • Vulnerability of Indian agriculture due to vagaries associated with climate change and low adaptation capacity of majority of Indian farmers poses risk to food security of the country.
    • By 2030, India may need 70 million tonnes more food grains than the expected production in 2016-17.
    • The demand for food is also going to increase due to an increasing population, expanding urbanisation and rising income.
    • To meet increasing demand, India may depend on import if it does not act on time to increase production and productivity of major food crops, pulses, oilseeds and milk by adapting to climate change.
  • Projected food demand :
    • The ICAR-National Institute of Agricultural Economics and Policy Research has projected food demand of 345 million tonnes (MT) by 2030- almost 30% higher than in 2011.
    • The projected demands for fruits, vegetables, milk, animal products (meat, eggs and fish), sugar and edible oil, by 2030 is estimated to be 2-3 times more than that in 2011.
  • Economic Losses :
    • According to the economic survey estimates, India currently incurs losses of about $9-10 billion annually due to extreme weather events.
    • Of these, nearly 80% losses remain uninsured.
    • The quantum of losses are going to increase substantially in future if one takes into account the impact of climate change on farm productivity.
What are the steps taken to address the issue?
India, nearly a decade ago launched the countrywide project on National Innovations in Climate Resilient Agriculture (NICRA).
Objectives of NICRA:
  • Identify vulnerable areas
  • Assess the potential impact of temperature rise on crop farming, livestock, and fisheries
  • Evolve crop varieties and agronomic practices adaptable to the emerging weather patterns.
How has NICRA helped farmers to cope up with Climate change?
  • Many water-harvesting structures have been created under the NICRA project to facilitate crop irrigation at critical stages of plant growth. These have resulted in yield gains in some low-rainfall areas.
  • Situation-specific advanced technologies for imparting climate-resilience to farming have also been evolved and successfully transferred to farmers in 151 climatically vulnerable districts.
  • Several climate-resistant crop varieties have also been developed.
  • More importantly, contingency plans to cope with climate anomalies have been drawn up for as many as 650 districts.
  • Almost all agricultural activities such as crop farming, horticulture, livestock rearing, and fisheries have continued to scale new highs, regardless of the increase in the frequency of weather-induced natural disasters.

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