By Vishwa Mohan
NEW DELHI: Extreme weather events are costing India $9-10 billion annually and climate change is projected to impact agricultural productivity with increasing severity from 2020 to the end of the century.
In a recent submission to a parliamentary committee, the agriculture ministry said productivity decrease of major crops would be marginal in the next few years but could rise to as much as 10-40% by 2100 unless farming adapts to climate change-induced changes in weather.
Wheat, rice, oilseeds, pulses, fruits and vegetables will see reduced yields over the years, forcing farmers to either adapt to challenges of climate change or face the risk of getting poorer. Adaptation will need different cropping patterns and suitable inputs to compensate yield fluctuations.
The challenge is particularly urgent for Indian agriculture where productivity for crops like rice does not compare even with neighbours like China. The possibility of a further dip due to climate change will be particularly worrying as it could turn India into a major importer of oilseeds, pulses and even milk.
By 2030, it may need 70 million tonnes more of foodgrains than the expected production in 2016-17.
The economic survey, in its latest mid-year report, says “estimates indicate that currently India incurs losses of about $ 9-10 billion annually due to extreme weather events. Of these, nearly 80% losses remain uninsured”. It pointed out that 2014 floods in Kashmir cost more than $ 15 billion and Cyclone Hudhud the same year cost $ 11 billion.
The quantum of loss will increase substantially in future if one takes into account the impact of climate change on farm productivity.
Extreme weather events are not always linked to climate change but research shows that their frequency and severity is increasing and this is being increasingly read as a fallout of climate change.
The ministry, in its submission, noted that though most crops will see reduced production in a `business as usual’ scenario, climate change may help improve yields of soyabean, chickpea, groundnut, coconut (in western coast) and potato (in Punjab, Haryana and western Uttar Pradesh). Potato production will, however, decline in rest of India, particularly in West Bengal and southern plateau region.
The ministry also noted possible decrease in yields of certain crops in traditional sown areas but an increase elsewhere due to change in weather pattern.
It also observed that increasing food demand due to an increasing population, expanding urbanisation and rising income may require India to 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.
“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”, said the Parliamentary Standing Committee on agriculture while referring to various submissions made before it by different ministries. The report of the panel was tabled in the Parliament during the Monsoon session.
“If the country, which is more or less self-sufficient in foodgrain production, moves on with the business as usual approach, it will have to suffer a major loss due to rising temperature and uneven distribution of rainfall. If all the losses are compounded, India will be a major victim of climate change”, said an ICAR official, citing the projection made by the public sector agricultural research institution.
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. Referring to its projected demands for fruits, vegetables, milk, animal products (meat, eggs and fish), sugar and edible oil, the panel said the demand for these products by 2030 is estimated to be 2-3 times more than that in 2011.