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Drought: Maharashtra's farm crisis deepens

Agricultural growth in Maharashtra is set to decline 2.7 percent for the year 2015-16 after deficient rainfall

Policy Pulse
Publish Date: Apr 11 2016 12:29PM | Updated Date: Apr 11 2016 12:32PM

Drought: Maharashtra's farm crisis deepens

Production of cereals is projected to fall 41 percent, and pulses 11 percent, as agricultural growth in Maharashtra is set to decline 2.7 percent for the year 2015-16, after deficient rainfall in 278 of 355 talukas (sub-units of districts), according to a Survey of Maharashtra for fiscal 2015-16.

In 2015, the rainfall in Maharashtra was 60 percent of normal, and so the state’s farmed area for the winter crop (rabi) declined 16 percent between October 2015 and March 2016, according to the Survey. This is the second successive year of below-normal rainfall.

The lack of rain has created crises in other states as well: 246 of India’s 688 districts across 10 states — or 35 percent of India’s area — are now officially drought-hit, according to this answer provided on 10 March to the Lok Sabha (the lower house of Parliament).

Maharashtra is India’s second-most important agricultural state (after Uttar Pradesh), with 52.7% (61 million) of its 112 million people dependent on the rural economy. Overall, its gross domestic product (GSDP) is India’s largest at Rs 15.7 lakh crore ($236 billion), of which 10 percent comes from agriculture.

The only bright spot in the state’s stressed economy is the services sector, employing 44 million people and likely to grow 10.8 percent, followed by industry at 5.9 percent, the Survey said.

Maharashtra’s experience with irrigation has not been promising, with the state’s irrigation potential increasing by no more than 0.1 percent despite spending Rs 70,000 crore, roughly since the turn of the century, as this Business Standard report noted, quoting the state’s 2014-15 economic survey.

The last available figure on the gross irrigated area to the percentage of total cropped area is from 2009-10 with only 18 percent of the total cropped area being irrigated.

Despite heavy spending on irrigation, the state has not managed to substantially increase the area under irrigation, and 82 percent of its farms still depend on increasingly uncertain rain.

The Maharashtra budget has set aside Rs 25,000 crore ($3.7 billion) for agriculture, almost half the total Rs 56,997 crore ($8.5 billion).

The major spend will be Rs 7,850 crore ($1.1 billion) for irrigation, an 8 percent increase over 2014-15, to complete 38 projects that overshot their deadlines, according to this news report. This year, the government claimed, it would complete 28 of the 38 incomplete projects.


Irrigation is increasingly important because rainfall is likely to grow increasingly erratic, according to scientists. Around 66 million of farmers among total of 138 million farmers in India depend on increasingly uncertain rains. Extreme rainfall events in central India, the core of the monsoon system, are increasing and moderate rainfall is decreasing–as a part of complex changes in local and world weather.