Impact on Agriculture

Impact on Agriculture


According to Climate change: Building the resilience of poor rural communities by IFAD,

• Between 15 and 37 per cent of land plants and animal species could become extinct by 2050 as a result of climate change

• Emissions of greenhouse gases have increased, on average, by 1.6 per cent per year over the past 30 years

• Agriculture and deforestation together contribute up to 30 per cent of all greenhouse gas emissions: forests act as carbon sinks, so deforestation results in higher carbon dioxide in the atmosphere

• Recent climate changes and variations are beginning to have effects on many natural and human systems, including earlier spring crop planting at the higher latitudes in the northern hemisphere

• Yields from rainfed agriculture could be reduced by up to 50 per cent by 2020 in some countries

• In Central and South Asia, yields could decrease by 30 per cent by 2050


According to the April, 2008 Report of the International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development,

• Developments in agriculture over the last fifty years have increased yields sufficiently to provide enough food for every person on the planet. Yet approximately 850 million people around the world are not able to obtain enough food to lead healthy and productive lives. The recent volatility in food supply and price, which led to food riots in the summer of 2008, has placed some 100 million additional people at risk of food insecurity. Ongoing energy, financial and climate crises make it likely that food price volatility will persist in the future. Enhancing national food production capacity will help countries to better withstand international food price shocks.

• Modern agriculture generates large environmental externalities, including accelerated loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services, such as water cycling and quality, intensive energy use and greenhouse gas emissions; and the environmental health impacts of synthetic pesticides. Many of the externalities derive from the failure of markets to value environmental and social harm and provide incentives for sustainability. In a number of cases, e.g., loss of biodiversity and greenhouse gas emissions, there is clearly an inadequate pricing system, as these negative externalities are simply not priced at all.

• About 30% of global emissions leading to climate change are attributable to agricultural activities, including land use changes such as deforestation. The relative prices of carbon, oil, nutrients and farm outputs, as well as human ingenuity in designing appropriate policies and institutions, will determine the profitability of emission reduction and sequestration for farmers.

• A considerable debate exists over the magnitude of direct and indirect GHG emissions from biofuels; however, the intensive cultivation of energy crops is expected to produce adverse environmental impacts on soil and groundwater, and to result in deforestation and loss of biodiversity. Local, national and regional agricultural regulatory frameworks will have to take into account tradeoffs between the need for promoting higher yields and the need for environmental and biodiversity conservation.

• The growth in bioenergy production has been stimulated mostly by biofuel subsidies, fuel blending mandates, national interest in energy security, climate change mitigation and rural development programs. However, bioenergy has also triggered controversy. This attention is  related to the soaring prices for grains, which have resulted, in part, from the expansion in global biofuels at the expense of food production. The underlying causes of the most recent increases in food prices are complex and include factors such as increased demand from rapidly growing economies (especially China); poor harvests due to an increasingly variable climate (e.g., the Australian drought); the use of food crops for biofuels (e.g., maize for bioethanol); higher energy and fertilizer prices; low food stocks; speculation on the commodity futures market; and, in response to the high food prices, restrictions imposed on agricultural commodity exports by a number of significant exporters (e.g., Argentina, India and Ukraine) to protect their domestic consumers.

According to The World of Organic Agriculture: Statistics and Emerging Trends 2009,

• The total organic area in Asia is nearly 2.9 million hectares. This constitutes nine percent of the world’s organic agricultural land. 230’000 producers were reported. The leading countries are China (1.6 million hectares) and India (1 million hectares). The highest shares of organic land of all agricultural land are in Timor Leste (seven percent). Organic wild collection areas play a major role in India and China.

• 32.2 million hectares of agricultural land are managed organically by more than 1.2 million producers, including smallholders (2007). In addition to the agricultural land, there are 0.4 million hectares of certified organic aquaculture.

• The regions with the largest areas of organically managed agricultural land are Oceania, Europe and Latin America. Australia, Argentina and Brazil are the countries with the largest organically managed land areas.

• The highest shares of organically managed land are in Europe: Liechtenstein, Austria and Switzerland.

• The countries with the highest numbers of producers are Uganda, India and Ethiopia. Almost half of the world’s organic producers are in Africa.

• About one third of the world’s organically managed land – almost 11 million hectares -is located in developing countries. Most of this land is in Latin American countries, with Asia and Africa in second and third place. Countries with the largest area under organic management are Argentina, Brazil, China, India and Uruguay.

• Almost 31 million hectares are organic wild collection areas and for bee keeping. The majority of this land is in developing countries – quite the opposite of agricultural land, of which two thirds is in developed countries.

• Almost two thirds of the land under organic management is grassland (20 million hectares). The cropped area (arable land and permanent crops) constitutes 7.8 million hectares - a quarter of the organically managed land. Compared with the previous survey, there is a clear trend for cropland to increase. Relatively high shares for some crops have been achieved; organically managed coffee and olive areas reported, for instance, account for more than five percent of the total harvested areas, and in some countries the shares are even higher – 30 percent of Mexico’s coffee is organic.

• On a global level, the organic land area increased by almost 1.5 million hectares compared to the data from 2006. Twenty-eight percent (or 1.4 million hectares) more land under organic management was reported for Latin America (including 0.9 million hectares of in-conversion land in Brazil for which no data had been available previously). In Europe, organically managed land increased by 0.33 million hectares (+ 4 percent) and by 0.18 million hectares (+27 percent) in Africa.

Droughts in India

• India Meteorological Department’s (IMD) long range forecast (LRF) update for the 2009 south-west monsoon season (June to September) is that the rainfall is likely to be below normal. Quantitatively, monsoon season rainfall for the country as a whole is likely to be 93% of the long period average with a model error of ±4%. The Long period average (LPA) rainfall over the country as a whole for the period 1941-1990 is 89 cm*

• Over the four broad geographical regions of the country, rainfall for the 2009 south-west monsoon season is likely to be 81% of its LPA over north-west India, 92% of its LPA over north-east India, 99% of its LPA over central India and 93% of its LPA over South Peninsula, all with a model error of ± 8 %*

• The deepening shadow of a drought in the wake of a wayward monsoon on 8 August, 2009 saw Prime Minister Manmohan Singh asking states to immediately commence relief operations while operationalising contingency plans for crops, drinking water, water and human and animal health. He warned that shortfall in kharif sowing was bound to increase inflationary pressure on prices and states needed, in tandem with the Centre, to keep a sharp eye on availability of foodgrains and essential commodities. Singh's reference to rising prices of pulses, sugar and some vegetables points to a concern that apart from ensuring proper functioning of the public distribution system, the general availability at retail points needs to be monitored. This may need, as PM suggested, strong action against hoarders and black marketeers. He said as many as 141 districts have been declared drought affected@@

• From 1871 to 2002, India has witnessed 22 major droughts each in 1873, 1877, 1899, 1901, 1904, 1905, 1911, 1918, 1920, 1941, 1951, 1965, 1966, 1968, 1972, 1974, 1979, 1982, 1985, 1986, 1987, and 2002 and five of them were severe**

• About 68% of the country is prone to drought in varying degrees. Drought leads to large-scale migration in search of alternative livelihoods, loss of human life due to stress, suicide, starvation or unhygienic conditions, and increased social conflict***

• Due to drought, the country has undergone various difficulties: (a) A shortage of raw material supplies to agro-based industries; (b) Reduced rural demand for industrial/ consumer products due to dampening of agricultural incomes; (c) Potential shift in public sector resource allocation from investment expenditure to financing of drought relief measures; (d) Small and marginal farmers are the hardest hit due to drought. Water and fodder shortages during a drought situation cause considerable stress to this section of farmers, as they own a bulk of the bovine population. Over 150 million of the 296.49 million-strong bovine population, across 18 states, were affected by 2002's drought; (e) The impact of the drought of 2002-03 on hydroelectric power generation led to a decline of 13.9%; (f) Drought leads to inflation in essential commodities and increased unemployment%

• Drought can be classified under 4 different categories, roughly@:

(i) Meteorological drought: This takes place when the actual rainfall in an area is significantly less than the climatological mean of that area. The country as a whole may have a normal monsoon in that case, but different meteorological districts and sub-divisions can have below normal rainfall. The rainfall categories for smaller areas are defined by their deviation from a meteorological area's normal rainfall –
(a) Excess: 20 per cent or more above normal;
(b) Normal: 19 per cent above normal – 19 per cent below normal;
(c) Deficient: 20 per cent below normal - 59 per cent below normal;
(d) Scanty: 60 per cent or more below normal

(ii) Hydrological drought: This occurs with a marked depletion of surface water causing very low stream flow and drying of lakes, rivers and reservoirs;

(iii) Agricultural drought: Inadequate soil moisture resulting in acute crop stress and fall in agricultural productivity. Earlier years of all-India drought that affected agriculture were: 1987, 1979, 1972;

(iv) Droughts are also classified according to the timing of rainfall deficiency during a particular rainfall season, usually June to September in the Indian context. Rainfall during the period June to September is primarily caused by south-west monsoon. The cumulative seasonal rainfall for India as a whole during 2009’s monsoon has so far been 54% below the long period average (LPA). Rainfall was excess/normal in 6 and deficient/scanty in 30 out of 36 meteorological sub-divisions

• There is no provision for declaration of drought by Government of India. Drought is declared for each State or part of the State by the State Governments under the Relief Manuals or similar documents of the State Governments$

• The Drought Research Unit was set up at India Meteorological Department (IMD) in Pune under the instruction of the Planning Commission of the Government of India in June 1967. India Meteorological Department identifies meteorological drought for subdivisions every year based on rainfall analysis#$

• In January 1988, the Government of India approved the establishment of National Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecasting (NCMRWF) as a constituent unit of the Department of Science and Technology (DST) to help develop suitable numerical weather prediction (NWP) models for medium-range weather forecasts (3–10 days in advance) and prepare agrometeorological advisories for the farming community in 127 agroclimatic zones of India. The main objectives of NCMRWF are (1) to develop location-specific medium-range (3 to 10 days) weather forecasts, (2) develop weather-based agro-advisory services for the farming community, and (3) promote and coordinate research in related areas of meteorology and agrometeorology#$

• The space-based National Agricultural Drought Assessment and Monitoring System (NADAMS), which has been operational since 1989 under India’s Department of Agriculture, provides scientific information at the district level for most of the states and subdistrict levels in a few states#$

* Press Information Bureau, Government of India,


*** Drought in India: Challenges and Initiatives, prepared by Poorest Areas Civil Society (PACS) Programme (2001-2008),


@@ Prepare drought plan: PM to states, The Times of India, 9 August, 2009,


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