April 18, 17:41
India to expand irrigation to cut reliance on monsoon
Plans are on to expand India's farmland under irrigation by at least a tenth in the next three years, potentially boosting grains output by an equal proportion in the world's second-biggest rice and wheat producer.
The extra irrigated area would cut the dependence on annual monsoon rains that water crops grown on nearly half of the country's farmlands. Rice, cane, corn, cotton and soybean are the main monsoon crops.
Crop yields on irrigated farms are usually 2-2.5 times those in rain-fed areas. Better yields would boost exports after India shipped large quantities of rice and wheat in recent years.
"We have around 97 million hectares under irrigation and it's slated to go up by 10% by 2017. Eventually, the potential is to take this forward by almost half to 149 million hectares," A B Pandya, chairman of the state-run Central Water Commission, said in an interview on Monday.
Higher output and productivity will also raise rural income, stoking demand for an array for consumer goods ranging from lipsticks to refrigerators.
Although agriculture's share in India's nearly $2 trillion dollar economy has steadily fallen to 14%, the sector continues to employ more than half of its 1.2 billion people.
If India manages to realise its irrigation potential, almost three-quarters of its 199 million hectares of arable land would be irrigated, leaving just a quarter dependent on monsoon rains.
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