PublicNews18: India is the largest grain producing country in the world
In the western Indian state of Maharashtra, the village of Lassan village is usually full of farmers and traders, but most migrant workers who load, climb and rank onions on trucks are missing from there. Be aware that onions are an essential ingredient in the daily diet of millions of Indians.
The market, where one-third of onion products are bought and sold in India, somehow kept ringing for a week of lock-in 21 days of sudden imposition to prevent the spread of the virus. Bus, train, and air travel are banned during this lockdown.
But because of this lockdown, for the first time, workers migrated from their workplaces to their homes spread across the country.
Farmers are moving to their onion farms after the government has declared agriculture essential services, and some of the workers who stopped are keeping the Lassan village bazaar alive somehow.
But then the news came out that a person had come to the Quad-19 test positive in the vicinity, after which the panic spread. On that day, the market was stopped and 450 tonnes of onion was left to be taken to Mumbai’s export port from which it is transported to different parts of the country.
Onion trader Manoj Jain told me: ‘The first truck stopped coming. Then some workers left. Then came the news of a virus infected, so the remaining laborers also fled. ‘
He added, “Keeping a social distance in this bazaar auction market is extremely difficult.”
A farmer in the eastern state of Bihar, about 1700 km from here, is facing the same situation.
Manavant Chaudhary of Samastipur district of Bihar grows paddy (rice), vegetables, fruits and cattle on his 30 acre spread fields. They said that the laborers working here are local and live across the street but they have also refused to come to work.
He said: ‘They are afraid to come to work on the road because they fear they will not be allowed to return.’
‘There is so much misinformation and fear about the virus that the villagers have stopped coming out. When I told one of my employees that she needed to wash her hands after a while, she asked if she could drink cow’s urine as a medicine to prevent it. Therefore, we cannot do farming while maintaining social distance. ”
More than half of India’s productive power is engaged in farming, while agriculture accounts for 16% of India’s total output. India is one of the largest rice, wheat, fowl, cotton, vegetables and milk producing countries. It is now being feared that stopping farming will not only affect farmers and workers, it will also affect food security.
Lockdown couldn’t have been worse.
The highest activity of farming in India is between the months of April to June. This is the time when the wheat, rice and pulses are harvested and sold. It is also the most active fruit season. And this is the season when farmers sow crops in summer rains, which include paddy, bride, cotton and fold.
‘Lockdown has affected both seasons,’ says Mikhala Krishnamurthy, Associate Professor of Engineering at Ashoka University.
In addition, the farmer faced difficulties even before the outbreak. The low prices of the crops had largely slowed the rural population. Manavant Chaudhary said: ‘Even under normal circumstances, farming is inefficient.
Since 1997, about two lakh farmers have committed suicide. Most of the suicides are due to poverty, debt, huge increases in crop costs and damage to crops due to pest attacks.
The government has announced a $ 23 billion relief package for transferring food security and cash to the poor, but it has been criticized and said it is low and inappropriate.
State governments are trying to raise funds and harvest crops. The state of Tamil Nadu in the south plans to provide tractors to the farmers on loan, but it is not clear whether they will be implemented. It is still unclear how the supply chain can be simplified without any relaxation in public transport.
How will migrant workers be persuaded to return to work? And how quickly can buyers be brought to the first level by Lockdown? If they make fewer purchases, this will lead to higher food prices in the market, while on the other hand, farmers’ incomes will decrease further.
But not all news is bad. For example, things are changing at the ground level.
There are seven and a half thousand large wholesale markets in India where goods are grown from the fields. In addition, there are 25,000 weekly markets. Dr Krishnamurthy says, ‘Some of them are opening up and there is a focus on how to keep the market open and bring and send goods while making social distance.’
With this, the winter crop has improved as well. India has a strong food storage system that can store up to six million tonnes of grain and is also officially the world’s largest distribution chain.
Such food shortages are unpredictable, but there are challenges to assist farmers, stakeholders and laborers before the situation returns to normal. In addition, there are challenges in delivering food to the poor and saving the crop for next season.