30 Jan 2018 14:56 IST

Climate change may reduce farm income by 20-25%

Call to provide direct income support to farmers, instead of power, fertiliser subsidies

Providing direct income support in place of untargeted subsidies in power and fertiliser sector could help farmers realise better income from farm operations, the Survey said, even as it drew a grim picture saying that climate change will reduce their income by 20-25 per cent.

This comes even as the Narendra Modi-government has set an ambitious target to double the income of farmers by 2022.

The Survey’s suggestion also assumes importance because many farmer groups have been clamouring for more stabilised income from farming activities, particularly in the form of higher minimum support prices for agricultural commodities. The Survey admitted that there was no growth in real agricultural GDP and real agriculture revenues in the last four years, but attributed it partly to weak monsoon in two of those years. It also conceded that demonetisation, teething difficulties in implementation of GST, high and rising real interest rates, and sharp fall in certain food prices too hit agricultural income. The agriculture growth this year, the Survey estimated, would be 2.1 per cent, much lower than 4.9 per cent achieved last year.

‘Address root cause’

“The Chief Economic Adviser should be given credit for truthfully representing the data. He has frankly admitted that there is a serious problem on the farm front,” said Avik Saha, convenor of Jai Kisan Andolan, a farmer movement. “The way out suggested however is only a band-aid solution, doesn’t address the root cause,” he said. According to the Survey, farmers also suffered because crops like pulses and oilseeds sown over relatively greater area witnessed unusually low farmgate prices (much below minimum support prices), affecting farm revenues.

It drew a grim picture saying that in the medium-term climate change will reduce farm income by 20-25 per cent. Using simulations available from existing studies, the Survey said extreme rainfall shocks would reduce income by between 13.7 per cent and 5.5 per cent whereas extreme temperatures would impact farmer income by up to 4.3 per cent.

In the long-term, projected changes in the weather patterns could reduce annual agricultural incomes in the range of 15 per cent to 18 per cent on an average, and up to 20-25 per cent for unirrigated areas.

Saha, however, wondered whether this was yet another caveat to be used by the government to say why they can’t double the farmers’ income by 2022 as they have promised.

The Survey stressed on the need for a national science and technology mission for improving farm productivity and renewed effort to make irrigation available to more number of farmers, especially through more efficient drip and sprinkler technologies.

The Survey pointed out that farm mechanisation in the country has gone up to 90 per cent from mere 7 per cent in 1960-61. But it said there was a need for consolidation of land holdings to reap the benefits of agricultural mechanisation.

(The article first appeared in The Hindu BusinessLine.)