Economic Survey 2018: Climate change could lower the farmers’ income by up to 25%, the Economic Survey warned and suggested the need for “dramatic” improvement in irrigation, use of new technologies and better targeting of power and fertiliser subsidies. “Farmer income losses from climate change could be between 15% and 18% on average, rising to anywhere between 20% and 25% in unirrigated areas, according to the survey. The document also said that in the absence of any adaptation by farmers and any changes in policy (such as irrigation), farm incomes will be lower by around 12% on an average in the coming years. The average income of a farmer is estimated at Rs 77,976 per year, according to the Dalwai committee report. The Modi government has targeted to double the farmers’ income by 2022.
The Survey pointed out that agriculture in India even today continues to be vulnerable to the vagaries of weather because close to 52% (or 73.2 million hectares area out of 141.4 million hectares net sown area) farm field is still unirrigated and dependant on rainfall. The all India percentage of net irrigated area to total cropped area is even lower at 34.5%. At least three main channels through which climate change would impact farm incomes — an increase in average temperatures, a decline in average rainfall and an increase in the number of dry-days. “All three are likely to be correlated, and therefore the total impact of climate change will not be the simple sum of these individual effects,” it said. Elaborating on the impact of climate change, it said “between the 1970s and the last decade, kharif rainfall has declined on an average by 26 millimeters and rabi rainfall by 33 millimeters. Annual average rainfall for this period has on an average declined by about 86 millimeters.” Similarly, the average increase in temperature during this period is about 0.45 degrees and 0.63 degrees in the kharif and rabi seasons, respectively. “The central priority of the government will be to provide opportunities for farmers to diversify their income generating opportunities to reduce the various risks by facilitating the development of agricultural sub-sectors like livestock and fisheries,” it said. The government has also been urged to take “radical follow-up action” to achieve its objective of addressing agricultural stress and doubling farmers’ income.
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Yogendra Yadav, who has been spearheading a farmer movement with other leaders demanding debt waiver and 50% profit over cost of production, tweeted “Will Budget 2018 respond to this timely warning?” Since agriculture is a state subject and an open political economy question, the Survey has suggested a mechanism similar to the GST Council to bring more reforms in the farm sector and boost farmers income. The policy paper, which articulates independent views as to what should be ideally done, has suggested a review of cereal-centric farm policy. It has asked the government to accord drip and sprinkler irrigation greater priority in resource allocation in view of depleting water level. Also to check wastage of water, the government has been asked to end power subsidy and replace it with direct benefit transfers. This will help increase power use efficiency and boost water conservation.