News / Asia

India Confronts Possibility of Drought

Indian women laborers return after a days work at a paddy field. Indians have been desperately waiting for the long-delayed deluge of this year's monsoon, July 24, 2012.
Indian women laborers return after a days work at a paddy field. Indians have been desperately waiting for the long-delayed deluge of this year's monsoon, July 24, 2012.
TEXT SIZE - +
Anjana Pasricha
NEW DELHI — India is bracing for a drought in parts of the country, as monsoon rains continue to be scant. It is expected to hit food production and bring hardship to millions of farmers in the country.

Satnam Singh Behru was cheerful as he planted paddy seeds in mid-June on his seven-acre farm in Patiala district in the northern Punjab state - known as India’s bread basket. The weather office had forecast a normal monsoon, raising hopes of a plentiful harvest.

But, six weeks on, Behru is worried. Monsoon rains have been erratic.

He says he has to pump water from underground wells to prevent the saplings from withering. But his village gets power for only a few hours a day, so he has been buying diesel to run generators. That adds huge costs.

Behru has drastically scaled down expectations of his crop yield and his income.

Monsoon rains, which irrigate more than half of India’s farms, have been deficient by 20 percent. Some key food-producing regions have fared worse, not even getting half the normal rains.

Farmers are staring at parched fields in Gujarat and Maharashtra and in the southern states of Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka. These are top producers of cotton, oilseeds and sugar - all crops sown in the summer season.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has said the government is ready to address the situation. The government says it is increasing the supply of electricity and diesel to northern states. Farmers are being given high yielding seeds to replant their fields.

India’s huge buffer stocks of wheat and rice also mean that the availability of food grain will not pose a problem, despite low production.

The weather office also gave some cause for optimism on Thursday, saying rains will improve in the coming days.

Still, worries are mounting about the impact of the erratic monsoon. Although the farm sector accounts for just 15 percent of India's gross domestic product, it sustains two-thirds of the nation's 1.2 billion people.

Farm analyst Devender Sharma, in New Delhi, says some of the parched regions, such as Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, have a high incidence of poverty.

“The year of drought means that the rural economy goes back by at least three years. Which means the brunt is being borne by the farmers. That is a cause for worry. It reduces the average income. Their entire economic cycle is dependent upon what happens in the monsoon season,” said Sharma.

Food inflation, already high, is expected to rise further if the monsoon does not revive next month.

The government has also said it will review its export rules for farm goods next month. India is the world’s second largest producer of wheat, rice and sugar. Lower production could prompt a ban on exports.

You May Like

Photogallery Pope's Easter Prayer: Peace in Ukraine, Syria

Pontiff also calls for end to terrorist acts in Nigeria, violence in Iraq, and success in peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians More

Abdullah Holds Lead in Afghan Presidential Election

Country's Election Commission says that with half of the ballots counted, former FM remains in the lead with 44 percent of the vote More

Russia-Ukraine Crisis Could Trigger Cyber War

As tensions between Kyiv and Moscow escalate, so too has frequency of online attacks targeting government, news and financial sites More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politicsi
X
Michael Eckels
April 19, 2014
There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politics

There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Face of American Farmer is Changing

The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Donetsk Governor: Ukraine Military Assault 'Delicate But Necessary'

Around a dozen state buildings in eastern Ukraine remain in the hands of pro-Russian protesters who are demanding a referendum on self-rule. The governor of the whole Donetsk region is among those forced out by the protesters. He spoke to VOA's Henry Ridgwell from his temporary new office in Donetsk city.
Video

Video Drones May Soon Send Data From High Seas

Drones are usually associated with unmanned flying vehicles, but autonomous watercraft are also becoming useful tools for jobs ranging from scientific exploration to law enforcement to searching for a missing airliner in the Indian Ocean. VOA’s George Putic reports on sea-faring drones.
Video

Video New Earth-Size Planet Found

Not too big, not too small. Not too hot, not too cold. A newly discovered planet looks just right for life as we know it, according to an international group of astronomers. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Copts in Diaspora Worry About Future in Egypt

Around 10 percent of Egypt’s population belong to the Coptic faith, making them the largest Christian minority in the Middle East. But they have become targets of violence since the revolution three years ago. With elections scheduled for May and the struggle between the Egyptian military and Islamists continuing, many Copts abroad are deeply worried about the future of their ancient church. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky visited a Coptic church outside Washington DC.
Video

Video Critics Say Venezuelan Protests Test Limits of Military's Support

During the two months of deadly anti-government protests that have rocked the oil-rich nation of Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro has accused the opposition of trying to initiate a coup. Though a small number of military officers have been arrested for allegedly plotting against the government, VOA’s Brian Padden reports the leadership of the armed forces continues to support the president, at least for now.
Video

Video More Millenials Unplug to Embrace Board Games

A big new trend in the U.S. toy industry has more consumers switching off their high-tech gadgets to play with classic toys, like board games. This is especially true among the so-called millenial generation - those born in the 1980's and 90's. Elizabeth Lee has more from an unusual café in Los Angeles, where the new trend is popular and business is booming.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
AppleAndroid