Economic Survey: Priority should be given on irrigation water productivity

Economic Survey: Priority should be given on irrigation water productivity

The Economic Survey 2018-19, tabled in the Parliament today by Union Minister for Finance, Nirmala Sitharaman, suggests that “focus should shift from ‘land productivity’ to ‘irrigation water productivity’. Devising policies to incentivise farmers to improve water use should become a national priority. Thrust should be on micro-irrigation that can improve water use efficiency”. 

In India according to the Asian Water Development Outlook, 2016, almost 89 percent of groundwater extracted is used for irrigation. “There is a major concern whether the present practice of ground water use can be sustained as the depth of ground water level continues to drop. The cropping pattern in India is highly skewed towards crops that are water intensive. The incentive structure like Minimum Support Price (MSP), heavily subsidised electricity, water and fertiliser have played a significant role in misalignment of crop pattern”. Sitharaman said in the Parliament while tabling the Economic Survey.

9 points that make Economic Survey special for agriculture sector

The Survey lays special emphasis on the agriculture and food sector as a large proportion of population is engaged in it despite the reduction in its contribution to overall growth. The Survey says that “agriculture is critical for the country’s food security.” 

Around 89 percent of groundwater extracted is used for irrigation and crops such as paddy and sugarcane consume more than 60 percent of irrigation water. The costs of fertilisers are key determinants of profitability of farming. The fertiliser consumption which was continually increasing since 2002 has shown a declining trend after 2011. Fertiliser response ratio has been declining over time indicating declining responsiveness of soil fertility to fertiliser application, the Economic Survey states.

Highlighting the importance of bringing resource efficiency in smallholder agriculture, the Economic Survey enumerates several important factors and also lays down the main policy changes required. These include increasing Irrigation Water Productivity (IWP) by adopting improved methods of irrigation and irrigation technologies, increasing sustainability through organic and natural farming, economising the use of fertilisers and pesticides, improving infrastructure and access to markets and adopting appropriate technology for smallholder farm. 

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