Climate change could reduce agricultural incomes by up to 25%, the Economic Survey, tabled in the Parliament on Monday, said. The annual document has suggested that irrigation be expanded to more parts of the country, and farmers get direct income support instead of subsidies.
Lamenting that cinema and traditional imagery have reduced farmers to poor and vulnerable victims, the chapter discusses the impact of extreme rainfall and temperatures on farm incomes and crop yields. If government policy does not respond to changing rainfall and temperature patterns, a loss of 15%-18% is likely in farm income, which could rise to 20%-25% in unirrigated areas, the Economic Survey said.
This could be mitigated by spreading irrigation, but that would need to be done amidst rising water scarcity and depleting groundwater levels. “Fully irrigating Indian agriculture, that too against the backdrop of water scarcity and limited efficiency in existing irrigation schemes, will be a defining challenge for the future,” the document said.
In addition, agriculture research is important to lift crop yields, and power subsidies must be replaced by direct benefit transfers, it said.
However, the Economic Survey was sceptical about how this could play out practically: “It is easy to say what needs to be done. How this will happen given that agriculture is a state subject is an open political economy question.”
Chief Economic Adviser Arvind Subramanian offers a solution to this: the same “technology” of “cooperative federalism” that has brought the Centre and states closer in implementing the Goods and Services Tax.
“The cooperative federalism ‘technology’ of the GST Council that brings together the Centre and States could be promisingly deployed to further agricultural reforms and durably raise farmers’ incomes,” the Survey said.