Rainfall deficiency in UP, Bihar to affect millions of farmers, reduce Kharif output

Rainfall deficiency in UP, Bihar to affect millions of farmers, reduce Kharif output
  • As per Climate Trends latest report, Bihar, Jharkhand, West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh–which account for a third of the country's total rice production– have been highly deficient in rainfall so far.
  • These eastern states have been witnessing drought-like conditions and a severe food and water shortage could be further exacerbated by the lack of rain.
  • India is the world's second-largest producer of rice, of which a substantial amount is grown under rain-fed conditions during the Kharif.
  • Due to the impending drought, millions of farmers will be staring at a food and water crisis.
The rainfall deficiency in states such as Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand, and West Bengal – which account for a third of India’s total rice production – has forced changes in sowing patterns, leading to a decline in paddy cultivation. Low rains will also impact livestock and take a heavy toll on farmers’ livelihoods.

The estimated paddy production in UP and Bihar is about 15.5 million metric tons (MT). And, the estimated damage is almost 20% of production, Anand Chandra, executive director & co-founder, Arya.ag, an agricultural warehousing services and online marketplace, told Business Insider India.

“We are looking at a net impact or loss of close to 3 million MT in the production of paddy from these (two) states. At the national level, the average annual production of paddy is close to 105 million MT. There is a possibility that other states can contribute and close the gap of 2.9-3%,” Chandra said.

However, if the other states don’t outperform, said Chandra, it will be a double whammy for the government as farmers will be staring huge losses.

“It [government] will be thrown into a dilemma of whether to allow a price rise or deplete our existing buffer stock of paddy,” he said.


Monsoon performance in major rice-producing states
StateActualCumulativerainfall fromJun 1- Aug 30NormalCumulativerainfall fromJun 1- Aug 30Departure fromnormalCategory
Jharkhand582.2 mm792.5 mm-27%Deficit
Bihar472.1 mm768.8 mm-39%Deficit
UttarPradesh330.9 mm588.1 mm-44%Deficit
West Bengal849.3 mm1038.5 mm-18%Normal
Source: IMD

Paddy to pulses

With the impending drought, the states of UP and Bihar would have to face a different set of challenges each.

“Uttar Pradesh would have massive problems with its Kharif crop, forcing the farmers to begin sowing other crops. In the areas of Bundelkhand, this would mean the sowing of Dalhan (pulses) crops. With Bihar, the same is true for paddy crops,” said Shailendra Singh Rao, MD and founder of climate change and carbon asset management platform Creduce.

Kharif crops are sown before the beginning of the monsoon season, around May end to early June, and harvested after the monsoon ends in October.

Rice, maize, pulses such as urad, moong dal and millets are among the key kharif crops.

On the other hand, incessant rainfall in Tamil Nadu has hit cotton and maize cultivation. More than 1,000 acres of crops have been destroyed in Salem, Erode and Tiruchirapalli.

As a result, this year, maize is the second most adversely impacted Kharif crop.

“Maize has repercussions on other protein industries like chicken and meat. In addition, the distribution and occurrence of pests and diseases that affect crops, forage and livestock may increase when drought and high temperatures are present,” said Pankaj Kumar, head of agronomy at agritech platform nurture.farm.

Millions of livelihoods affected by rainfall deficiency
Rainfall deficiency in UP, Bihar to affect millions of farmers, reduce Kharif output

As per a recent report by Climate Trends, the agricultural sector in India employs almost half of the labour force of the country. India is also the world's second-largest producer of rice, of which a substantial amount is grown under rain-fed conditions during the Kharif.

Thus, deficiency in rainfall and the resultant changes in rice cultivation patterns is likely to substantially affect farmers’ livelihoods and have considerable social impact.

The paddy deficiency stands at about 8% today and the overall acerage is down by 5-6% in the country thanks to the deficiency in rainfall, said food and trade policy analyst Devinder Sharma.

“In Eastern UP, Bihar and Jharkhand, more than 7% of the population is dependent on agriculture and the rainfall deficit will affect millions of livelihoods,” said Sharma.

With this, India’s overall agricultural output will see a huge drop.

Drought-like situation and its ripple effects

Due to the rainfall deficiency, water reservoir levels have also come down, which would also impact both livestock and farmers.

“There are other challenges due to lack of water – such as livestock issues and the inability to sustain village socials and schools due to drought. Not to mention mass migration of farmers escaping drought to the cities. Depletion of groundwater resources leads to a lack of clean drinking water. In a further worst-case scenario this will lead to death of farmers by suicide due to failed crops,” said Rao.

With more than half of India in the agricultural sector, a drought will have a major economic impact, pushing millions of farmers into penury and causing deep distress.