India’s food security, especially post the Green Revolution, has been majorly taken care of by Punjab and Haryana.
But unfortunately, the two states had been witnessing a fallout in their contribution to assuring that India doesn’t go to bed empty stomachs. The fact that in the last two decades, the combined share of two states in total wheat procurement by the Central foodgrain pool for the Public Distribution System has fallen from 90% or even more to hardly 70%, scares the country’s food security. And to catalyse the insecurity, the data on the contribution of rice from two states, showing a decline from 43-44% to 28-29%, is there.
However, after bearing a loss of falling contribution to central procurement by almost 50%, their contribution has now again gone up in the last two years to 70-74%, reaffirming their image as reliable and all-weather contributors to national food security.
The reason for the falling contribution was El Niño. During this event, due to the weakening of trade winds, warm water gets pushed back to the east, toward the west coast of the Americas. This phenomenon releases more heat into the atmosphere, creating more wet and more warm air.
El Nino, if we go by past data, has been resulting in monsoon failures in India. Thus, the El Nino years, to mention, 2014, 2015, and 2018 recorded subnormal rainfall. Fortunately enough for the last 4 years consecutively, from 2019 to 2022, the country enjoyed four consecutive years of good monsoons.
The ramification of a subnormal monsoon would be on the Kharif crops, which are sowed in May and harvested in October. Rice may bear the impact more, as it is a highly water-intensive crop and it requires at least 25 irrigations in the absence of rain. Moreover, if El Niño gets stronger, the impact could even extend to the rabi, a winter-spring crop. These, especially wheat, are grown using groundwater and the water from dam reservoirs that are recharged or refilled by the monsoon water. A subnormal monsoon can, hence, threaten national food security, by hitting both rice and wheat production.
Punjab and Haryana which assures access to irrigation, hold the rope of food security’s responsibility. In 2022-23 Punjab solely cultivated paddy, rice with husk, on 31.67 lakh hectares which also includes 4.94 lakh hectares under basmati varieties.
An official from Punjab’s agriculture department even claimed that paddy yields in Punjab indeed tilt to go up during weak monsoon years. That’s because farmers then make use of groundwater only and irrigation then works according to their own plans. Their worries are rather more about the monsoon season prolonging and raining when it’s the harvesting period of crops.
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