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Rising mercury may take toll on fruits, vegetables

Temperature to increase by 2°C, hitting food production: Study. Chetan Chauhan reports.

business Updated: May 10, 2012 01:53 IST
Chetan Chauhan
Chetan Chauhan
Hindustan Times

The rising mercury is set to make you break into a not-so-cold sweat in more ways than one. If a government study is to be believed, the temperature in India is expected to increase by 1.5 degrees Celsius to 2 degrees Celsius by 2030 – causing the production of fruits and vegetables to plummet.

The study, recently submitted to the United States Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), said fruits and vegetables are most vulnerable to extreme weather changes. “Periodic high temperature and soil moisture stress conditions cause drastic reduction in yields,” it said.

The study was conducted by over 200 scientists from 17 public institutes.

The vegetables likely to be affected are potato, onion and tomato – consumed the most in India, resulting in substantial price rise in recent years. Among fruits, grapes, apples and mangoes would witness the maximum fall in production if no adaptation measures are taken, the report said.

Their scarcity will be on account of various climatic reasons, it said. Onion production is projected to fall further in high-yielding states such as Maharashtra and Karnataka, where the temperature has seen a higher rise, than ones like Gujarat. The delay in monsoon rains will impact grapes, and reduced winter precipitation will cause a fall in apple production, the report said.

The impact of climate change on perishables is already being felt, with 59% of the country’s meteorological districts reporting deficit rainfall. This has affected the overall production of kharif crops.

The rising temperatures will cause water scarcity, although there will not be any major deviation in overall monsoon rainfall. “There will be more instances of heavy rainfall, coupled with more dry days in monsoon months,” the report said.

As a result, the per capita availability of water would fall to 1,140 cubic metres by 2050 from the current 1,654. It was as high as 5,177 cubic metres in 1951. The water in major rivers such as Indus and Ganga will fall by 2020, but will rise in the Brahmaputra because of faster melting of Himalayan glaciers.

Those in cities should brace themselves for more humid summers, with rainfall levels expected to rise by 7%, and warmer nights, with the temperature expected to rise by 4-5 degrees Celsius – except in peninsular India.

First Published: May 10, 2012 00:06 IST