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Rapid-action measures to fight drought

New Delhi, June 13: The government plans to get the states to build localised stocks of foodgrains, which can be quickly delivered to the markets to cool prices in the event of a poor monsoon.

It is also planning to offer subsidised diesel to pump water for irrigation and drought-resistant seeds to farmers.

The Centre will also work on contingency import plans for oilseeds and pulses to offset a rise in prices and plans to compensate farmers in case of drought-like conditions.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi met agriculture, food, fertiliser and power ministers after meteorologists warned of a below-par monsoon, which could hit the nascent India growth story.

The agriculture ministry has already prepared a cabinet note seeking funds to compensate farmers in case of a drought, offer subsidised diesel to run pumps to provide irrigation for standing crops and give interest subsidy to buy seeds.

The government will call a meeting of states next week to work out the finer details of the contingency plans.

According to the meteorological department, the monsoon is 44 per cent below normal since June 1. It has predicted that rainfall will be about 85 per cent of the long-term average for the country’s grain bowl of northwest India comprising Punjab, Haryana and western Uttar Pradesh. On an all-India basis, the monsoon season will be about 93 per cent of the long-term average for July because of the possible effect of El Nino.

In 2009, the last time India experienced El Nino, caused by periodic warming of the Pacific waters, rainfall was about 22 per cent below the long-term average, reducing food grain output by 7 per cent as inflation more than doubled from the previous year.

India, however, has sufficient food stocks. Against a buffer norm of about 10 million tonnes (mt) of rice and 17mt of wheat, the central pool has 20.64mt of rice and 41.59mt of wheat.

 
 
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