05/04/2020, 15.01
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India: lockdown forces farmers to burn crops

by Biju Veticad

Although agriculture has been declared an essential service and agricultural markets are exempted from the blockade, the supply chain has been severely affected, rail services are suspended and trucks face obstacles to move across state borders due to strict controls.

New Delhi (AsiaNews) - Farmers in the South Indian states like Karnataka and Tamilnadu are suffering devastatingly due to un-harvested, unsold crops.  A yearlong investment in the cultivations found zero income for thousands of families who depend exclusively upon agriculture.

Gangadhar Murthy, 63 year old farmer from Mukunduru Hoshallin in Hassan in Karnataka burnt his standing crop worth over 200 thousand rupees.  He was unable to harvest sugarcane during the Covid-19 lockdown.  With this the work of the family put in over a year, besides its investment of 80 thousand Rupees has been burned all the dreams this poor family.  Murthy had an agreement with a sugar factory, but due to the lockdown all the factories of the sector were closed in Karnataka.   “I could not maintain the crop with a constant supply of water.  The standing crop started to dry up.  When I lost all options to protect it, I set fire to crop grown on one and a half acres”, Mr. Murthy told. 

There are similar cases across the states of Tamilnadu, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh and Telegana.  In Tamilnadu 70% of population depend upon agriculture where as 65% is in Karanataka.   April-May is the normal season of cropping of several seasonal vegetables and fruits and due to Covid lock-down, the crops have been left in the fields and unable to be transported to other states as well as to gulf countries. Although farming has been declared an essential service and agriculture markets are exempted from the lockdown, a shuttered economy has left farmers facing huge challenges. The supply chain has been badly hit -- buses and train services have been suspended and trucks face hurdles in moving across state borders due to strict checks.  Even between the states, the roads were blocked in the initial stage of lockdown phase 1.  On the back of widespread protests from different states, the transportation of primary goods was facilitated to assure the supply of rice, groceries and vegetables.  

The economic crisis of agricultural sector is not limited to South India. Summer fruits and vegetables have ripened, a bumper crop of wheat is ready for harvest in India, but blocked by severe labor shortages, transport bottlenecks and scarcity of demand due to a nationwide corona virus lockdown which is now extended until May 17.  The setback caused by the COVID-19 pandemic will be directly causing adversely to the country’s struggling rural economy that supports nearly half its population into further distress. 

In Haryana, a lush farm state in the north, Kamal Yadav was just beginning to pluck a bountiful harvest of cucumbers and bell peppers on a two-hectare plot when the lockdown was announced. “Suddenly there were no buyers. Big retailers, restaurants and hotels all closed down and household demand dipped drastically because many fear that vegetables are handled by too many people.” Yadav distributes some every day to a local charity that feeds the poor but much of his crop is rotting. “I can’t pluck all of it because I cannot spend on labor for something that will not fetch me any profit,” he says, as he writes off a crop that he expected would bring in about ,000.   Now he is scrambling to arrange labor that is in short supply to harvest the wheat he grows on eight hectares.  

Currently the spread of Covid 19 is fast moving to the rural areas of India.  Until now, if it has been a major threat to the metropolitan cities like Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai etc, now the situations are worsened in the rural districts in Telegana, Karnataka and Andhara Pradesh.  In Andhra Pradesh, most of the new cases were reported in Kurnool, Guntur, Krishna districts.  

India has crossed 42 thousands Covid positive cases as of Sunday May 3.  Though the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare of India is assuring that there is no community spread in India, Chief Ministers of several states are undertaking extra-precautionary measures to contain the spread of it.


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