El Nino may not affect foodgrain output; Govt prepares contingency plan for 449 districts

Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar on Wednesday said that it was too early to predict how the Monsoon will behave this year and any emergence of El Nino is unlikely to affect the country’s foodgrain output next season starting July.

“It is too early to say. I had discussions with the officials of the Indian Meteorological Department. They are seriously concentrating on this and said they will be able to come out with Monsoon forecast in the second week of April,” Pawar told reporters on sidelines of Kharif 2014 Conference.

El Nino, caused by rising surface temperature in the Pacific Ocean, leads to drought in the Asia-Pacific region, particularly India. The Australian Bureau of Meteorology recently forecast the emergence of El Nino this year.

“We had seen this type of situation in 2009. It will not be as severe as to affect foodgrain production. We are keeping a close watch,” Pawar said.

With prediction pointing to a likely occurrence of the El Nino, the Agriculture Department has started preparing contingency plans to meet any possible dry spell. 

“The contingency plans for 449 districts in about 23 States have already been prepared,” said JS Sandhu, Agriculture Commissioner. Besides procuring seeds of short duration varieties of various crops, the Government is also asking States to promote the concept of raising community nurseries of rice to deal with the situation. Citing the forecasts made by various weather agencies, Sandhu asked the agriculture department officials of all States to be prepared for poor rains this year.

Earlier addressing the Kharif 2014 conference, Pawar said that the country was likely to surpass the agriculture growth target of 4 per cent during the 12th Plan ending 2017.

The country is expected to harvest a record foodgrain output of 263.2 million tonnes in the current season to June. Expressing concern that the country’s agriculture was still monsoon-dependent, Pawar called upon the farm scientists to develop stress- and drought-resistant varieties.

(This article was published on February 26, 2014)
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