Fickle weather adding to farm distress, say experts

November 28, 2015 12:00 am | Updated 05:51 am IST - New Delhi:

India’s agriculture sector is in distress, and with the rise in extreme weather events, farmers have been at the receiving end and hence, they need better protection measures than ever before, said experts at the National Consultation on Crop Loss Estimation, Relief and Compensation organised by the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) here on Friday.

CSE Director-General Sunita Narain said: “We are seeing an increased severity and frequency of extreme weather events. Farmers in India are facing the double blow of agrarian distress and extreme weather events as a result of climate change. A series of measures including better protection mechanisms are needed to support them.”

The report “Lived Anomaly” — on the impact of extreme weather events on farmers and how to enable them to cope with extreme weather events — was released at the event.

The former Union Agriculture Minister Sompal Shastri said the economy was not buoyant and experiencing low demand, particularly from the rural sector.

“Around 62 per cent of India’s people depend on agriculture. Until the problems of farmers are addressed, the economy will not boom,” he said, adding one of the biggest blows to farmers in recent times was unpredictable rain and sudden variations in weather events.

A session moderated by Mr. Shastri said the current crop insurance system was not effective as it was accessible only to a small proportion of farmers. It also wanted current relief and compensation rules and practices to be changed.

“Farmers need to be provided with means of irrigation if they are to guard themselves against untimely or inadequate rain,” Mr. Shastri said.

The ‘Lived Anomaly’ report highlighted the need for urgent reforms in the agrarian sector, given the expected increase in the frequency of extreme weather events.

CSE Deputy Director-General Chandra Bhushan said: “This was the third year in a row when the rabi season was thrown out of kilter in large parts of India by deviant weather. In 2013, five States were impacted and 0.35 million hectares (ha) of standing crops was affected. In 2014, six States were affected and 5.5 million ha of crops, just a month away from being harvested, were damaged. In 2015, not fewer than 15 States were hit and 18.23 million ha of crops was damaged.”

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