Call Centre to Facilitate Transportation for Harvest and Inputs
With the lockdown extended, the farming activities will continue as before as the government had already exempted it from the lockdown. Also, the Agriculture Ministry started All-India Agri Transport Call Centre for coordinating between states for inter-state movement of agricultural produce and inputs.
The call center will work to solve the problems of drivers, retailers and other stakeholders facing problems while moving the produce. It will forward the details of the vehicle and the consignment to the state officials for resolving the issues. That apart, the agriculture department has declared to provide subsidy for the varieties of less than 10 years. This will ensure the supply of seeds to the states under the National Food Security Mission.
Challenges to the Agriculture Sector
Despite the relaxations, the lockdown has disrupted the agricultural activities as it led to fleeing of migrant labourers and created obstacles for buyers. It has proved a double whammy for farmers who already suffered a loss due to hailstorms and unseasonal rains this winter. Vegetable farmers of Punjab have suffered a huge loss as the wholesale demand from restaurants and hotels halted. Besides, the ban on APMC yards sale of fruits and vegetables in Karnataka took a hit on the farmers’ earnings.
The lack of labor has impacted the harvesting process severely. With markets not open, the lack of storage facility has raised further complications in all states. However, the government’s decision to relax lockdown on farmers has provided relief to some extent.
Need for Manual Workforce and Social Distancing
April-June is the time of harvest for Rabi crops like wheat and maize along with potatoes and onions. Besides, this the time when farmers prepare their field for the next season’s sowing. India has 2,477 principal regulated markets and 4,843 sub-market regulated by APMC. The process of sowing, harvesting, transporting, cleaning, grading, packaging, and loading requires a large amount of manual workforce. That manual forced has fleed or not available to the farmers.