Lack of cold storage facilities, awareness among farmers result in food wastage

Around 10 per cent of farmers are unaware of the existence of cold storage facilities

Farmer Representational image | PTI

Limited access to cold storage facilities are adding to the woes of farmers even as they struggle with droughts and erratic rain. Even if crops survive the initial challenges of a changing climate, inaccessibility of these facilities lead to massive food wastage. A staggering 69 per cent of marginal farmers lack cold storage facilities within a 10 km radius and even when available, utilisation remains low at just 15 per cent. Furthermore, around 10 per cent of farmers are unaware of the existence of such facilities in their area.

The shocking figures were revealed in a report by the Development Intelligence Unit (DIU), a collaboration between Sambodhi Research and Transform Rural India Foundation (TRIF), commissioned by the Forum of Enterprises for Equitable Development (FEED), an advocate for marginal farmers.

Over 6,600 marginal farmers across 21 Indian states participated in a comprehensive survey and were identified through phone calls, ensuring representation from a large national sample. The selection criteria focused on land ownership, with the government definition of a marginal farmer being someone cultivating up to one hectare of land (as an owner, sharecropper, or tenant).

Nearly 50 per cent of marginal farmer villages in the country are affected by droughts and 23 per cent hit by early or late rainfall. Despite half the paddy crop being lost due to erratic rains, even a third of the country's marginal farmers are yet to adopt climate-resistance crop practices. The reason: They can't afford them.

In addition to paddy, wheat production also faced substantial setbacks, with 42 per cent of farmers reporting similar losses. Uneven rainfall distribution appears to be a key factor impacting these vital crops. Insufficient climatic conditions and lack of adequate resources and help have forced close to 83 per cent of affected farmers to diversify their income by engaging in part-time work, animal husbandry or simply migrating.

Out of the few who did adopt climate resistance agricultural practices 70 per cent of those who did, adopted sowing methods, over a third adopted new strategies like disease management and adjusted planting times, and 40 per cent implemented water management strategies.

To tackle water challenges, the report suggested that India needs a two-pronged approach, one to increase water storage by building more reservoirs and improving groundwater recharge through check dams and watershed management. Second, using water more efficiently by allocating water fairly across crops and adjusting pricing to encourage responsible use.

The report also recommends promoting sustainable farming practices. This includes techniques like mulching, micro-irrigation, and crop diversification. Encouraging local knowledge and integrating agriculture with other sectors like horticulture and livestock are other key suggestions.

Join our WhatsApp Channel to get the latest news, exclusives and videos on WhatsApp