80% of marginal farmers in India affected by adverse climatic events: Report


PTI, Jun 26, 2024, 8:57 AM IST

Representative image (Source: PTI)

New Delhi: A staggering 80 per cent of marginal farmers in India have suffered crop losses due to adverse climatic events over the past five years, according to a report released on Tuesday.

The survey, conducted by the Forum of Enterprises for Equitable Development (FEED) in collaboration with the Development Intelligence Unit (DIU), included 6,615 farmers across 21 states.

The findings reveal that the primary causes of crop damage were drought (41 per cent), irregular rainfall including excessive or non-seasonal rains (32 per cent), and early withdrawal or late arrival of the monsoons (24 per cent).

According to the report, nearly 43 per cent of the surveyed farmers lost at least half of their standing crops.

Rice, vegetables, and pulses were particularly affected by uneven rainfall. In the northern states, paddy fields often remain submerged for more than a week, destroying newly planted seedlings.

Conversely, scant rainfall has delayed the planting of various crops such as rice, corn, cotton, soybeans, groundnuts, and pulses in states like Maharashtra, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Bihar, and West Bengal.

The report, however, doesn’t capture the impact of temperature variability.

In 2022, an early onslaught of heat waves impacted wheat crop in India with the production declining to 107.7 million tonnes from 109.59 million tonnes in 2021. This prompted the country, the world’s second-largest wheat producer, to ban exports.

The heat impacted wheat output again in 2023, with the official target down by almost 3 million tonnes.

The Climate Transparency Report of 2021 said that rice production could decline by 10 to 30 per cent, and maize production could dip by 25 to 70 per cent with temperature increases in the range of 1 to 4 degrees Celsius.

Marginal farmers, those with less than one hectare of land, constitute the largest segment of India’s agricultural sector, representing 68.5 per cent of all farmers but owning only about 24 per cent of the crop area.

“Climate change is no longer a threat somewhere on the horizon. It is here and now. The unprecedented summer heat in the NCR and across India this year is a clear indication of this crisis. Developing an adaptation strategy is not optional but essential. We need to promote climate-resilient agricultural practices, diversify livelihoods, and improve access to financial services and technical advice,” said Sanjeev Chopra, Chairperson of FEED.

The report highlighted significant gaps in support systems for marginal farmers.

Although 83 per cent of them are covered under the PM Kisan Samman Nidhi scheme, only 35 per cent have access to crop insurance, and a mere 25 per cent receive timely financial credit.

The survey also found that two-thirds of the marginal farmers affected by extreme weather events have adopted climate-resilient agricultural practices, including changes in sowing time and methods, crop duration, and water and disease management strategies.

However, 76 per cent of those who adopted these practices faced challenges such as lack of credit facilities, physical resources, limited knowledge, small land holdings, and high up-front costs.

While 21 per cent of the marginal farmers have cold storage within 10 km of their village, only 15 per cent have used these facilities.

Although 48 per cent have a custom hiring centre within 10 km of their village, only 22 per cent have hired equipment from these centres.

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