Why in news?

Despite most Farmers managing to harvest their crops despite the COVID-19 pandemic, 60% of them still faced losses, mostly related to the lockdown, according to a new survey in 12 States.

Details

  • A majority of farmers say the lockdown has hurt their preparations for the upcoming sowing season either because they cannot afford inputs such as seeds and fertilizer or because of labour shortages.
  • The situation is worse for wage workers, with 80% seeing their incomes fall over the last month.
  • On average, wages were 76% lower compared to the same time last year.
  • The survey found that 63% of respondents had harvested a crop in the past month, while 26% said this was not a harvesting season for them.
  • Only 10% were UNABLE to harvest their rabi or winter season crop, due to lockdown-related issues such as low market prices, difficulty in market access, government restrictions and a shortage of labour and machinery.

Complicated situation

  • Wheat is the biggest rabi crop and harvesting rates were especially high in northern States like Punjab (95%) and Haryana (81%) which also have high rates of mechanisation. In Rajasthan, while 86% of the crop has been harvested, less than 15% has been sold.
  • The situation is worse with regard to other crops, especially vegetables which are a perishable crop highly vulnerable to the supply chain disruptions of the lockdown. In Karnataka, less than 40% of vegetables were harvested. Out of that, less than 60% could be sold.
  • About 60% of farmers reported losses in yield, with bad weather being the single biggest reason. However, nearly 40% reported lockdown-related issues.

High Cost

  • 50% of Farmers were worried about the high cost of seeds and fertilizers, especially given the last season’s losses, while one in five said these key inputs were not even available.
  • Almost 40% are worried about labour shortages, given that the primary kharif crop is paddy, which involves labour-intensive transplanting operations.
  • Wage earning households saw a 76% fall in wages, with 90% of landless households experiencing a hit to incomes.

How has Government Helped farmers during the Lockdown?

  • The Indian government announced a massive relief package of ₹ 1.7 lakh crore to cover those hit the hardest – farmers, rural workforce, women and other vulnerable groups.
  • The package promises free cereal and pulse grains for three months through the Public Distribution System (PDS) and cash transfers to vulnerable people, mainly in rural areas.
  • The government has promised an additional 15 kg food grains per person for 800 million people, thanks to about 60 million tonnes of grain buffer stock in the country.
  • The government has also exempted the movement of agriculture commodities; farm labourers and harvesting and other machinery from the shutdown restrictions.
  • Transportation and other logistics have to be organised well for the smooth availability of seeds and other agro-inputs at right time.

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-Source: The Hindu

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