Where's the action plan?

Where's the action plan?

Though no good news is coming from the clouds, there does not seem to be any seriousness in government circles.

The meteorological department of the Government of India has released preliminary statistics about monsoons, according to which except Lakshadweep, in no place in India, the rain has been more than average so far.

Up to the end June 2012, rain in the country has been 29 per cent below average. There is a genuine apprehension that if the monsoon fails this year, agriculture and allied activities could get badly hit and the economy, which is already suffering from slowdown, may further deteriorate. However, the position will be clear in July, when the met department releases its final report.

There is a long standing relationship between monsoon and India’s agriculture. If we look at the monsoon data and agricultural production in the last seven years (2005-06 to 2011-12), the foodgrain production increased from 208.6 million tonnes in 2005-06 to 234.4 million tonnes in 2008-09. In 2003, with a 46 per cent deficit in rain, the foodgrain production fell to 218.1 million tonnes. Good monsoon in 2011, led our foodgrain production to jump to 250.4 million tonnes.

One can easily conclude that Indian agriculture is still dependant heavily on monsoon. Because of the failure of monsoon is 2009, the country had to import 5 million tonnes of wheat and the nation turned a net importer of foodgrain from being a net exporter.

Deficient supply led to fast increase in prices of food products and the prices of all food products, including pulses, edible oils, fruits and vegetables skyrocketed, making the life miserable for the ‘common man.’ Demand for food products, has also been on the rise, thanks to rising incomes in the last decade. Despite good monsoon in the last two seasons, there is a huge imbalance between demand and supply of food items, which is causing prices of food products to remain high. In the current year again, we need the blessings of ‘Indra’ to ensure sufficient supply of food items.

Monsoon predictions this year are not very clear. Out of 10 global models, four predict that monsoon will be below normal, two predict draught, while four others predict that rain would be normal. No model predicted more than normal (excessive) rains.

Predictions are also there that in the next phase (August to September) we may face lower than normal rainfall.

There is a theory that after a gap of three to seven year, a season comes when there is an unusual warming of the ocean surface around equatorial Pacific. This phenomenon is often associated with bad southwest monsoons in India. In that event, Indian subcontinent faces irregular and below the normal rains. This phenomenon is known as El Nino effect. From the beginning of the year, apprehensions were there that this year there may not be a draught, but below normal rains are possible. 


Even today, nearly 60 per cent our population is dependent on agriculture. Of the GDP calculation, 14 per cent comes from agriculture and allied activities. Thus for the development of the country, agriculture has a great significance and monsoon has an important role to play for the well-being of agriculture. If the monsoon is good, there is happiness all around; bad rains cause gloom everywhere, and it affects all sectors of the economy. Agricultural scientist M S Swaminathan has advised the government to be ready with a contingency plan. He recommends a 5-point programme to reduce the impact of poor rains on farmers. 

According to Swaminathan, the government can give monsoon two more weeks to progress. However, it should be ready with a contingency plan, focusing on soil conservation, water-harvesting technology and inputs like late-sowing drought-resistant seeds, credit and insurance policy and remunerative MSP to protect the livelihood of farmers. Though, no good news is coming from the clouds, still there does not seem to be any seriousness in government circles.  

In the agriculture year just gone by, the country witnessed a record wheat production and record procurement by government agencies. However, we should not forget that the ‘Food Security’ legislation is also to be implemented this year itself. No less than 63.5 per cent of the population is supposed to be brought under the food security legislation, for which we need sufficient qualities of foodgrain in the government stocks, which could be distributed through the Public Distribution System (PDS). For this, we would need at least 100 million tonnes of foodgrain in buffer stocks. 

As of now, the government has about 82 million tonnes in its stock. If it fails to procure Khariff crops (in the event of a monsoon failure) the government may land in trouble. No country can feed India if it fails to feed itself. On the one hand, global food production is going down, while on the other, global giant foodgrain producers are converting foodgrain into ethanol to ensure energy security. the Food and Agriculture Organisation has also expressed its concerns on this issue a number of times.

 Thus, even a small shortfall in foodgrain production is sufficient to cause prices of food products to rise further. We have witnessed global wheat price rising when India decided to import merely five million tonnes of wheat in 2009-10. The government needs to continue procuring wheat coming into the mandis. it should also give special attention to crops of khariff season. Banks and financial institutions should also be ready with their contingency plans to help the farming community. A looming crisis needs a proper crisis management and it cannot be left too late. 

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