Sunday, Oct 02, 2022

Monsoon cheer

Government must draw up plans, in coordination with states, to prepare for good rains in June-July

India Meteorological Department, monsoon, global warming, climate change, kharif plantings, india news, latest news A significant takeaway from the back to back moisture failures of 2014 and 2015 was that the impact was felt mostly by farmers and rural producers.

The India Meteorological Department has been fairly accurate in forecasting the monsoon in recent times. Its prognosis of below-normal rainfall in both 2014 and 2015, and a return to normalcy in 2016, turned out directionally correct, even if not so much in magnitude. So, there’s something to cheer about the official weather agency predicting a “normal” southwest monsoon this year too, though the expected rainfall, at 96 per cent of the country’s long period average, isn’t the best one could ask for. The biggest source of uncertainty right now is the prospect of a fresh El Nino event, after the last one from February 2015 to May 2016 that caused India’s worst drought since 1986-87. Most global models are, however, pointing to only “weak” El Nino conditions, that too developing only during the latter part of the monsoon season. Together with the summer’s early onset this time — the monsoon is ultimately about moisture-laden winds blowing in from a high-pressure area (the Arabian Sea) to one of low pressure (over land) created by intense heating — it could be inferred that we are in for good rains in June-July.

That being the case, the Centre should draw up plans, in coordination with the states, to ensure adequate supply of seeds, fertiliser and credit to enable early kharif plantings by farmers. There is also a need to announce minimum support prices early enough to induce both timely sowing and also send the right signals of what crops to grow. A special campaign to push the Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana — explaining the benefits of insuring one’s crop by paying a premium of just 2 per cent and assuring immediate claim payments through the use of technology — can further boost farmers’ confidence ahead of the sowing season. Farmers should, in general, be encouraged to grow more pulses and oilseeds — as they did last year — and cultivate rice, sugarcane or hybrid cotton only in areas where there is enough water.

A significant takeaway from the back to back moisture failures of 2014 and 2015 was that the impact was felt mostly by farmers and rural producers. This is unlike past droughts, in which consumers in cities and urban centres also bore the brunt. Given the fundamental reality today of the terms of trade shifting against “Bharat” as opposed to “India”, this is also the time for the government to dispense with controls on agri-commodities, be it the imposition of stock-holding limits or export and domestic movement restrictions. With well-functioning crop insurance, efficient markets with the freedom to sell or stock agri-produce, and targeted direct benefit transfers, there will be no need for loan waivers, free power and other such sops that farmers can well do without.

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First published on: 24-04-2017 at 12:00:36 am
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