Climateflation simply means inflation caused by global warming which impacts the climate and weather, both the words that are synonymous with agriculture. These three words and its impact, is crucial when discussing the survival of the planet and humans in specific. When looking at the Indian landscape, climateflation has gained a lot of attention because of its impact on the agriculture and allied sectors. 

Though the contribution of India’s agriculture and allied sector to the GDP has gone down from over 50% in the 1950s to around just over 20% as of 2020-21, the number of households dependent on agriculture for livelihood still involves nearly 48% of the Indian population. Additionally, the fragmented landholdings coupled with the desertification of 30% of India’s land mass has become a prominent challenge in increasing agricultural productivity. This in turn will further negatively impact the farmers income and agricultural contribution to GDP in the long run. 

Today there is little to no doubt that global warming has become a leading cause of inflation when it comes to the agriculture sector not only in India but also globally. While there are over 50,000 edible plants, only 15 of them make up for 90% of world’s food intake. Of these 15 crops, rice, wheat and maize make up for more than half of the world’s food supply. Global warming can send shockwaves to the agriculture sector world wide considering the vulnerability of especially these three crops to extreme weather changes. It is putting food security and the economy of nations across the globe at risk. 

Looking at this in the Indian context, as per the National Innovation in Climate Resilient Agriculture (NICRA) rice, wheat and maize yields in India are projected to reduce by 10% in 2080, 6-25% and 18-23% in 2100 respectively. Simultaneously, climate change is also expected to cause about 1% to 2% loss in GDP contribution by 2030 due to its negative effects on crop yields. Furthermore, as per the Economic Survey of 2017-18, climate change could reduce annual agriculture income up to 20% to 25% in unirrigated areas and 15% to 18% on average. The Economic Survey also estimated the annual loss of US $ 9-10 billion due to adverse effects of climate change. 

Let’s take the case of the first half of the year 2023 alone which has witnessed unruly climatic behaviour, enveloping the central, southern and northwest part of India in unseasonal intermittent rains, mist and even fog, along with cooler temperatures in the months when crops like wheat are beginning to enter the harvesting season. The Rabi season begins with land preparation and crops being sowed in the winter season between October and December followed by the crops maturity, and harvesting in the months of April and May. However, with the onset of the above mentioned climate fluctuation especially in the ripening and harvest period for crops like wheat, has left the crop riddled with issues like crop wilting, delayed harvest, a drop in the quality of the harvest, reduced output, demanding longer time for drying, delayed procurement etc. Taking the example of Harayan and Punjab which are critical contributors to over 70% of wheat in the PDS system, rainfall flattened almost 40% of the over 3 million hectares of wheat crop in the Punjab forcing farmers to increase manual labour to get their produce. While over 1 lakh hectare witnessed crop loss between 70% to 100%. The wheat production in the state of Punjab has been reducing more each year due to heat waves, untimely and excessive rains etc. Similar is the case for Haryana which is not expecting to meet its yearly target set this year courtesy climate fluctuations.  

This climate emergency in the first five months of 2023 will have a ripple effect on the upcoming crop seasons needless to say especially due to the changes in the soil condition and excess moisture. It will not only impact the sowing process of next crops in what is understood as the Rabi season but also crops in the Zaid cropping season i.e. summer season crops which are grown between Kharif and the Rabi season in the months of March to June.

Eventually as these climatic emergencies continue, if the agricultural systems and cropping patterns dont evolve, the question around inflation, food and economic security will rear its ugly head more and more often than it has since the time of the Green Revolution. The agriculture policies require forward thinking in order to tackle the mammoth of a challenge that is climate change and its impact on the agriculture system. These climate change led repercussions in the sector has created an urgency for India to take a lead in tackling and leveraging climate change through the adoption of ‘adaptation led mitigation practices’ in our favour. 

Technological advancements must be brought to the farming communities and farmer organisations with information on weather, status of surface and groundwater, soil health, water availability during cropping season etc. Applications must be farmer friendly, in multiple languages, requiring available bandwidth and also posted on CSCs and similar public buildings. State governments with the support of Farmer Organisations could also replicate the Maharashtra Open Sky School model, an awareness campaign wherein small plots of cultivated land serve as demonstration plots to help small and marginal farmers learn about recent technological advances, crop productivity and adaptation led mitigation practices to help them adapt to climate change. 

Furthermore, monetary incentives on water intensive crops like rice, maize and wheat should be replaced with crops like millet and sorghum which reduce inputs required and GHG emissions while increasing the nutritional value of the food system. Thrust must be given to developing seed varieties withstanding the changing climatic conditions, revisiting the cropping patterns which includes decisions around sowing and harvesting, and bringing agricultural practices like conservation tillage and cover cropping in order to adapt and leverage these climatic changes. 

Climateflation and our future can be secured by opening up the agricultural sector to competition. The budget allocation towards the announcements like the Agriculture Accelerated Fund, the Rs 20 lakh crore farmers credit, Bio-Input Resource centres and digital public infrastructure for agriculture should categorically give priority to ‘adaptation ledmitigation practices’ while disbursing the funds in order to change the old patterns when it comes to agricultural funding. The same should apply for agriculture initiatives which affect farmers pan India so as to benefit as many farmers as possible in the inevitable climate crisis. While in the current landscape,  few such recent best practices like soil health card, Mission Organic Value Chain Development for Northeastern Region, National Bamboo Mission, more crop per drop etc have focused on ‘adaptation led mitigation techniques’.

An agricultural budget aimed to make schemes capable of adapting to the climate crisis would be critical, similar to what was brought out by  Tamil Nadu last year wherein it brought out an agricultural budget specifically ensuring the schemes withstand the climate crisis, thereby setting an example for all to follow. However, for this all to succeed the states require to come together, share successful practices and learning, exchange data on climate change, agricultural outputs against renewed practices and open up the sector to create a climate smart agricultural ecosystem with a sole aim to boost agricultural productivity and farmers economy while addressing the climateflation of the market. The centre and state will have to work in coordination, with a larger goal in mind or else India and its agriculture sector will only continue fighting against climate change in the decades to come and the future trends of economic loss and food insecurity will eventually become a scathing reality.

Views expressed by the author are personal and need not reflect or represent the views of the Centre for Public Policy Research.

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Senior Associate, Academy at Centre for Public Policy Research

Akanksha is a Senior Associate, Academy at Centre for Public Policy Research (CPPR). She completed her graduation in Political Science from St. Xavier’s College, Mumbai and her post graduation in International Studies from Durham University, UK. She wrote her dissertation on India’s Nuclear Proliferation and its basis in India’s Non-Alignment Policy. With her deep interest in global and national politics she went on to work as a Political Consultant. She worked on state elections like Gujarat, Chhattisgarh, Odisha and Haryana. Simultaneously, she also worked on various state level and national level policies and wrote reports on topics like Increasing Women’s Labour Force Participation in India and India’s Burgeoning Gig Economy.

Akanksha Gupta
Akanksha Gupta
Akanksha is a Senior Associate, Academy at Centre for Public Policy Research (CPPR). She completed her graduation in Political Science from St. Xavier’s College, Mumbai and her post graduation in International Studies from Durham University, UK. She wrote her dissertation on India’s Nuclear Proliferation and its basis in India’s Non-Alignment Policy. With her deep interest in global and national politics she went on to work as a Political Consultant. She worked on state elections like Gujarat, Chhattisgarh, Odisha and Haryana. Simultaneously, she also worked on various state level and national level policies and wrote reports on topics like Increasing Women’s Labour Force Participation in India and India’s Burgeoning Gig Economy.

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