Given the vulnerability of Indian agriculture to climate change, the country’s food security is threatened by global warming. The Union agriculture ministry is right, therefore, to warn of a possible foodgrain deficit, of as much as 20 million tonne by the end of this decade if measures are not taken to combat the impact of global warming on food production. It has also reportedly asked for an additional budgetary support of Rs 1,08,000 crore in the next five years for developing the required infrastructure, technology and crop varieties capable of adapting to the changed climate. This is for the first time that Krishi Bhawan has quantified the adverse impact of global warning on the output of food crops, notably wheat, rice, coarse cereals and pulses, and the resources needed to avert it. With business as usual, the foodgrain output would at best be 261 million tonne by 2020, from the present 234 million tonne, where as food demand is projected to be 281 million tonne. To ensure effective food security, with supply backed by an adequate buffer stock, grain production would have to be at least 301 million tonne by 2020. This target can only be met if Indian agriculture is able to overcome the threat posed by global warming.
Climate change would particularly hit rain-fed agriculture, on which small and marginal farmers, accounting for nearly 60 per cent of the total farm land, are dependent. Sustainability of food production and rural livelihoods in semi-arid tropics is, therefore, vital to food security in India. Semi-arid tropics are also areas that produce nearly 85 per cent of pulses and coarse cereals, over 75 per cent of oilseeds and about 65 per cent of cotton. Most of these commodities have contributed to high food inflation in recent years. Arid and semi-arid tracts will experience even more drought years in future as a result of global warming. A national mission on sustainable agriculture was to be one of the eight national missions mooted under the National Action Plan on Climate Change, 2008. The Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), the research wing of the farm ministry, has already initiated programmes for evolving new technology, new crop varieties and livestock breeds capable of thriving under the emerging climatic patterns. However, they are doing it with a small budget, not commensurate with the criticality and magnitude of the task. It would be a shame if paucity of financial resources comes in the way of addressing this challenge.