Securing the Agriculture Supply Chain Amid Climatic Disruptions

The existence and recent aggravation of global warming can not be denied. In the last decade or so, fueled by human activities and escalating greenhouse gas emissions, climatic disruptions and the leading natural disasters have been casting a formidable shadow over supply chains worldwide.

Increasing global temperatures are leading to shifts in climate patterns, triggering extreme weather events such as floods, wildfires, and storms. These events disrupt transportation routes by damaging critical infrastructure, causing delays and interruptions in the flow of goods. Additionally, coastal erosion and flooding, exacerbated by climate change, pose additional challenges to maritime logistics.

The frequency and intensity of these disruptions are expected to intensify as the planet continues to warm, necessitating a reevaluation of supply chain resilience strategies. However, a segment that, more often than not, goes without much attention is that of the agricultural supply chains. These climatic disruptions have significantly altered the agri supply chain dynamics.

Unpredictable weather patterns and extreme events continue to disrupt planting and harvesting schedules, affecting crop yields.

Talking about the increasing intensity and depth of these natural disasters, Mihir Mohanta (General Manager – Supply Chain, Mother Dairy Fruits and Vegetables) shares specifics about India. “India has seen many climatic disruptions in recent times. There was extreme rainfall, cloud bursts, floods, and landslides in the states of Himachal & Uttarakhand. Similarly, there were supercyclones in Gujrat, Odisha & West Bengal. Frequent draughts are also a common phenomenon in Maharashtra, parts of Karnataka & Bihar. Unusual floods were also noticed in the states of Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra & Gujrat.”

He points out how, as a result of these disruptions, the last year saw prices of tomatoes moving from INR 2 to INR 200 per kg, onion touching INR 80, and Apple production reducing to half the last year, and prices doubling to that of last year. Alphonso (processing grade) prices went up to INR 60 from last year’s average of INR 30.

Over the years, there have been many lessons learned from these disruptions, which ultimately emphasize the need for adaptable and flexible supply chain strategies capable of navigating uncertainties. Dr M.J. Khan (Chairman, Indian Chamber of Food and Agriculture) says, “The vitality of diverse supply chains, proactive adaptation plans, and climate-resilient farming techniques are among the lessons gained. These measures will help to lessen the effects of anticipated future climate change. Furthermore, the complex issues posed by climate change on agriculture require increasing knowledge and international cooperation.”

Innovations for Climate-Resilient Supply Chains

Technological advancements and innovation play a pivotal role in fortifying the agri-supply chain against climate-related challenges. Innovations like soil moisture sensors, remote sensing, and weather forecasts empower farmers to schedule irrigation effectively. Data analytics and weather forecasting technologies provide valuable insights for farmers, enabling them to plan and mitigate the impact of extreme weather events.

There has also been an increasing focus on alternate methods of farming – something that allows the production and storage of agri-produce beyond normal conditions. A perfect example will be that of saffron.

Saffron cultivation has been gaining attention and traction in recent years. The arid climate and suitable soil conditions in parts of Rajasthan have facilitated the cultivation of saffron in the state. This shift towards saffron cultivation from Kashmir to Rajasthan is seen as a diversification strategy for farmers in the region. Farmers have been receiving support and guidance from agricultural experts and government initiatives to optimize cultivation practices and enhance yields.

This is an abridged version of the Feature Story published in the February 2024 issue of the Logistics Insider magazine. To read the complete article, click here.

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