1. Agriculture World

Covid-19: Uncertain Monsoon, Seeds, Transportation, Shortage of Labours: Indian Farmer’s Uncertain Future

Saumy Deepak Tripathi
Saumy Deepak Tripathi

Two months after the first lockdown was announced by the Prime Minister, the economy is being opened in a phased manner. The lockdown has hit the economy hard globally and India might be one of the few countries that may show positive growth, there are several reasons for it one of which is the expected growth of Agriculture. The sector is expected to show a 3% growth rate.

The agriculture has also taken a slump due to lockdown as the migration of labour presumed to be the biggest after partition. This led to the unavailability of workers during the harvesting season.

A study by Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health in a survey found that farmers used family labour to harvest the crops which caused the yield to decrease by as much as 60%. The same study found that the farmers reported an increase in transportation costs due to lockdown. But the major worry for the farmers is, the upcoming season as 56% of them see the upcoming season more difficult than the previous one. The previous season shortage of labour occurred only during harvesting but, with uncertainty looming over when the pandemic will end farmers could look to a complete crop cycle with a shortage of labour which could prove detrimental.

This is a big concern for states like Haryana and Punjab that rely heavily on migrant workers from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. This is only the tip of the iceberg with other major factors that happen every year that could further hit the farmers hard. The next crop cycle is heavily dependant on the monsoon and a weak monsoon will cause more problems. 

The Indian Metrological Department (IMD) has said that the monsoon will be good but even if that’s the case it’s not the end of the tunnel. Transportation remains a big issue and even with a good crop lack of transportation facilities will lead to crop waste. The prices in seeds could rise and then there is the task of going to the seed centres and buying the seed physically while keeping in mind Social Distancing. There is also a fear of viruses spreading through seeds although the European Food Safety Authority(EFSA) has said there is no evidence to it. Its Chief scientist Marta Hugas said” Experiences from previous outbreaks of related coronaviruses, such as severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus (SARS-CoV) and Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV), show that transmission through food consumption did not occur. At the moment, there is no evidence to suggest that coronavirus is any different in this respect.” 

The Economy is being phased slowly back to track but for farmers the future is uncertain. 

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