Pawar says all eyes on El Nino but rules out impact on grain output

Written by fe Bureau | New Delhi | Updated: Feb 27 2014, 09:35am hrs
Agriculture minister Sharad Pawar on Wednesday ruled out a sharp fall in foodgrain production because of an anticipated adverse impact of El Nino on the southwestern monsoon.

Our Met department is seriously concentrating on this subject. We have seen this situation in 2009 as well. But according to the assessment made by experts, they said it will not be that severe to impact overall production and productivity. But still, we are keeping a close eye on it," Pawar said.

El Nino, a weather pattern, is caused by rising temperatures in the Pacific Ocean that creates drought-like conditions in Southeast Asia. Global weather bodies Australia's Bureau of Meteorology and the US Climate Prediction Center last week predicted the occurrence of El Nino this year and this condition usually occurs at an interval ranging from 4 to 12 years.

The country's grain output dropped to 218.1 million tonne (mt) in 2008-9 from 234.4 mt in the previous year, mainly due to the impact of El Nino that resulted in deficient monsoon rains.Pawar also said agriculture ministry officials are in talks with the IMD officials, who will be able to come out with a monsoon forecast in second week of April.

He also expressed concern that India's agriculture is still dependent on vagaries of monsoon and asked farm scientists to develop drought resistant varieties."Whether we like it or not, uncertainty of rains seems to be a permanent problem to this country. Our scientists have to develop certain varieties which are resistant to various types of stress, particularly during delayed monsoon," he noted.

As per the agriculture ministry's recent statement, the country is expected to harvest record foodgrain production of 263.2 mt in the current year due to normal monsoon in the most of the districts last year.

The southwest monsoon is considered as the lifeline of the countrys agriculture sector as more than 67% of rainfall is received during the June-September period. About 60% of the agricultural land depends on the monsoon for irrigation and contributes to about 40% of the annual grain production.

An agriculture ministry official told FE in the last three years, 450 district-level contingency plans have been prepared to save crops from damage and promote the usage of varieties of seeds that deal with erratic weather conditions.

Initiated by the agriculture ministry through Indian Council for Agricultural Research (ICAR) and state agricultural universities, a complete district dossier has been prepared which is expected to help the administration in dealing with the vagaries of weather for protecting the crop.Agriculture commissioner J S Sandhu said the government must be prepared for delayed and deficient monsoon this year in the backdrop of private agencies predicting below normal monsoon for the country.

"We have not yet received monsoon forecast from the Met department. Some private agencies have predicted below normal monsoon and there will be an El Nino impact. We should be prepared for delayed onset of monsoon and prolonged dry spell," Sandhu said in a paper presented on kharif sowing.