State governments roll out different strategies to cope up with the labour shortage due to the Coronavirus lockdown. Labour shortage amid COVID lockdown leads to an increase in farming expenses.
Labour Shortage Amid COVID
With labourers fleeing to their villages to contain the pandemic, farmers look at disruptions in the agricultural processes. The ongoing lockdown had already hit the marketing season of wheat, and now it will affect the sowing of paddy. Experts predict that cost of labour is going to double due to the shortage.
The paddy cultivation is a labour-intensive process as direct seeding has not taken off in the country. In the northern region, it is mainly done by migrant labourers from UP and Bihar. However, the labourers are reluctant to leave their native places due to the pandemic.
Government Efforts to Ease Labour Shortage
Citing labour shortage, Haryana and Punjab government’s are encouraging farmers to go for other crops rather than paddy. The Punjab government is planning to promote crop diversification and short-duration varieties of other grains. However, if farmers plan to cultivate paddy, they encourage them to plant varieties such as PR 126 and full and medium duration varieties like PR 121. Also, the Haryana government is formulating strategies for farm mechanization in transplantation and sowing activities.
Besides, both governments are providing adequate cotton and maize seeds to the farmers. Also, the government is endeavouring to boost the use of direct seed planter and pneumatic maize planters to remove the effects of the labour shortage. Punjab agriculture department is looking to increase the cotton cultivation area from 390,000 hectares to 500,000 hectares.
COVID Effect on Watershed Management
The months of April and May are crucial for the annual watershed calendar as major repair work and expansion of water-saving structures take place during this time. However, the lockdown barred villagers, technical staff, and NGO workers from taking actions. Consequently, the labour shortage resulted in a delay in water implementation programs for which payments were given in advance. That apart, the pandemic has resulted in job loss for several villagers hired for these projects. Besides, the lockdown has halted the activities of MGNREGA, which was the most engaging scheme in May.
Experts expressed their dissatisfaction with the relief package provided for farmers. They believe that re-packaging the next instalment Kisan Samman Nidhi due in April as a relief fund for the farmers is plain deception.
In all, the labour shortage has affected both Rabi and Kharif crops which will impact the food ecosystem globally.