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Weather alerts for farmers reap Rs.500 bn dividend!

Friday August 05, 2011 08:25:25 PM, Anjali Ojha, IANS

New Delhi: In a country where close to 60 percent of the 1.21 billion population still depends on agriculture for a living, short and timely alerts to farmers about the weather have led to economic benefits worth a whopping Rs.50,000 crore.

"The IMD (India Meteorological Department) has been providing very accurate forecast at micro level, focused on small areas," Shailesh Nayak, secretary of the ministry of earth sciences, told IANS in an interview.

"This information is then translated into information relevant for farmers' use by the Agromet Advisory Service of IMD. This brings around Rs.50,000 crore annually to the GDP (Gross Domestic Product)," Nayak says.

While IMD dishes out the weather report, the Integrated Agromet Advisory Service -- involving organisations like the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), Ministry of Agriculture (Centre and State) and State Agricultural Universities (SAUs) -- gives weather-based agro advisories specifically meant for the farming community.

The advisory is disseminated through several means of communication, the latest being SMSs.

According to a National Council of Applied Economic Research (NCAER) report, roughly 24 percent of farmers in over 550 districts are either aware or using the Agromet services, while two million farmers are availing the mobile SMS service which started over a year ago.

The report says the Rs.50,000 crore figure could rise to Rs.211,000 crore if the entire farming community in the country was to judiciously use the Agromet information and apply it to agricultural activities.

"The advances in the weather forecasting system have made the predictions more accurate than ever before. The Agromet service even gives advice on what the farmer should do," says Nayak.

"For example, if a farmer sprays pesticides and the rain comes, the pesticides will be washed away. Therefore, the Agromet will advise them not to spray the pesticide. This way, resources are saved and so are the crops," the secretary explained.

"Also, while sowing seeds, the seeding can be done according to the forecast of rain. If farmers sow and there is no rain in time, the seed spoils. Similarly at the time of cutting, the rain can spoil the crop," he added.

The fishery advisory by the Met office has added Rs.34,000 crore to the GDP, according to the NCAER report.

"Fishery advisories entail offering information to fishermen cooperatives about the areas in the ocean where the fish catch is likely to be high on a particular day," the report says.

"This, coupled with the information on the ocean state, enables fishermen to plan fishing operations in an economically effective manner in the least time," the report says.

Nayak also reveals that forecasts for natural disasters like tsunamis and cyclones have also become more accurate.

"This translates into economic benefits as preparedness saves life and property," he says.

(Anjali Ojha can be contacted at




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