Q) The trends in the India's agricultural export favors 'water-gulping' crops. What steps must be taken to reverse this trend? (150 Words)
Source: The IE Ideas Page: Re-examine agri-export basket by Ashok Gulati and Ritika Juneja
GS 3: Agriculture, cropping pattern
Introduction: More than 60% irrigation water is consumed by rice & Sugarcane. Whereas, Rain-fed Agriculture Atlas indicates that the non-irrigated areas produce 88% of pulses. Over this, more than 20% of India's agri-export consists of just two crops -Rice and Sugar, which means we are practically exporting water and reducing India's groundwater table.
Thus there is a need to arrest this trend.
Steps required to arrest this trend:
• Alternative Wetting Drying: A periodic drying and re-flooding irrigation scheduling approach is followed in which the fields are allowed to dry for few days before re-irrigation, without stressing the plants. This method reduces water demand for irrigation and greenhouse gas emissions without reducing crop yields.
• Direct Seeding Method(DSR): (instead of transplantation of paddy) the pre-germinated seeds are directly drilled into the field by a tractor-powered machine, with no nursery preparation.
• Micro-Irrigation Promotion: slow application of water as discrete or continuous drips, tiny streams or miniature spray on, above, or below the soil by surface / subsurface drip, bubbler and micro-sprinkler systems. It retains moisture for longer time with less application of water
• Incentivizing water saving crops: rewarded to the farmers who switch from rice & sugar to less water-guzzler crops & reduce the carbon footprint.
• Revisit subsidies: MSP/FRP to their production in an environmentally sustainable manner.
• Long-term strategy with the aim to conserve scarce resources of water & energy and to reduce the carbon footprint. The national mission on sustainable agriculture can provide a suitable policy boost.
• Diversification of Agri-systems & better use of scarce water supplies & lesser GHG emissions. This can be done by promoting agri-processing industries which can create a demand for a more wider sets of crops.
• Limited procurement at the FCI could help in doubling investments in Agri R &D to improve productivity on a sustainable basis & improve farming practices to minimize carbon emissions.
• Reducing logistic costs for other crops: An export-led strategy also needs to minimize logistics costs by investing in better infra & logistics.
• Stable Incomes: sharing the returns of the investments with farmers to give them a better deal in terms of higher & more stable incomes.
Conclusion: India needs to revisit its highly damaging subsidy regime which creates a great stress on the groundwater resources. This is necessary also because India has to also prepare for the scenario of the climate change. The recent increased prices of agri-imports of pulses and oil-seeds can give a necessary boost of utilized well.