India is currently facing adverse weather conditions, including unseasonal rains, hailstorms, and gusty winds, which pose a significant risk to the country’s agriculture sector. The impact of adverse weather conditions on crop production and timing will also have a severe impact on India’s economy and the Reserve Bank of India’s (RBI) fight against inflation.

The recent government data on estimates of CPI-based or consumer inflation for January showed a concerning spike in food inflation, which increased from 4.2% in December to 6% in January.

The rise in inflation is due to the supply shocks caused by unfavorable weather conditions such as heat waves and deficient monsoon rainfall, which led to a poor domestic wheat crop in the last rabi season and a decline in rice production in the Kharif crop. Cereal prices increased by 16% in December, with rural areas experiencing a higher rate of 17.2%.

The rise in cereal prices is due to the cost-push pressures worsened by the supply shocks caused by adverse weather conditions. Rising fodder prices, attributed to adverse weather conditions that impacted animal feed availability, have also contributed to the rise in prices of eggs and milk. The last three months have witnessed a 30% inflation rate.

Bad weather & destruction of crops

Bad weather has affected crops in key agricultural states of India such as Punjab, Haryana, and Madhya Pradesh. Just last week hailstorms and strong winds flattened near-maturity crops in many districts of Punjab and Haryana.

The Indian Meteorological Department has more bad news for farmers, as it expects adverse conditions to prevail over the next 10 days. Farmers sow crops such as wheat, rapeseed, and chickpeas during the October-November months and begin harvesting at end of February.

The crops are more vulnerable to the current bad weather after sustaining above-normal heat. Some wheat-growing areas in the northern states witnessed maximum temperatures as high as 39 degrees in early March, which is at least 7 degrees higher than normal for this time of the year.

“Fairly widespread rainfall with the thunderstorm, lightning, gusty winds, and hailstorm is very likely over Punjab, Haryana, Chandigarh, Delhi, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh for the next few days,” the weather department predicted.

Meteorologists have already sounded an alarm over the potential threat to crops. Unseasonal rain and thundershowers have already damaged crops in many districts in Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, and Rajasthan.

The latest bout of heavy rain and hailstorm hit 18 districts of Madhya Pradesh this week, leading to the destruction of 10-40% of standing and newly-harvested crops in the affected districts, said reports.

The agriculture sector is already facing several challenges, including the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, high fuel prices, and low crop prices. Crop damage due to adverse weather conditions will only exacerbate the situation, leading to significant losses for farmers, and a spike in food prices, which could impact the overall economy.

As per Economic Survey 2022-23, 65% (2021 data) of the country’s population lives in rural areas and 47% of the population is dependent on agriculture for livelihood.

The risks to India’s agriculture sector are high, given the current weather phenomenon and its impact on crop production and timing. The Indian government needs to take urgent measures to support farmers and mitigate the impact of crop damage, including providing financial assistance, insurance coverage, and relief measures.

By editor

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