ITC joins forces with Microsoft and Skymet to insulate tobacco companies from weather events.

The fact that climate change is negatively affecting agriculture is not news. But a little-known fact is that it causes widespread damage to the tobacco crop in India, causing an estimated loss of export earnings of ₹ 800-900 crore. “Due to biotic and abiotic stresses caused by the vagaries of climate, farmers are losing their production”, ITC Tobacco Business managing director H N Ramaprasad told Businessline. He cites the example of tobacco farmers in Karnataka, whose production has fallen to around 60 million kilograms (mkg) compared to the limit of 90-100 mkg set by the tobacco board in 2021 and 2022. First, the government, a branch of the Union Ministry of Commerce, regulates the size of the tobacco crop. After discussions with stakeholders, the size of the annual harvest is agreed upon. Farmers cannot grow more than that.

Climate Resilience

“We have added another 70,000 hectares in Karnataka under the climate change mitigation programme, taking the total area under the program to 1.40 lakh hectares”, The occurrence of two dry seasons followed by an equal number of rainy seasons reduced the production of India’s traditional influenza crop below its optimal potential (74-87 mkg) compared to 120 million kg. “Tobacco grown in the Mysore region is export-oriented, and 75 percent of the production is exported. The hostile weather affected the size and quality of the crop, The purpose of the program was to make tobacco plants resistant to climate and to ensure that farmers do not lose the opportunity to export.

Crop Damage

In addition to sending weather forecasts, the company advises farmers on what to do during a flood or prolonged dry spell. “It prepares the farmer and reduces the damage” He cited the example of Cyclone Mandous in 2022, where he claimed that intervention helped farmers reduce losses to only 4-5 percent, compared to about 40 percent. The program includes forecast-based crop advice, rain/drought point mapping, drones, weather-based growth models, and extensive use of analytical tools such as artificial intelligence and data analytics. Going forward, the company will focus on developing varieties that help crops cope with biotic and abiotic stress.

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