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Opportunities for leaderships by FPOs in COVID 19 response: Webinar organised by National Institute of Agricultural Marketing

National Institute of Agricultural Marketing in collaboration with Arya Collateral Warehousing Services organised a Webinar on Mitigating Farmer Distress by FPOs on the onset of Corona Pandemic.

KJ Staff

National Institute of Agricultural Marketing in collaboration with Arya Collateral Warehousing Services organised a Webinar on Mitigating Farmer Distress by FPOs on the onset of Corona Pandemic. Mr Prasanna Rao, MD and CEO, Arya Collateral Warehousing Services, Mrs Vartika Jaini, Founder, Vriddhi Rural Prosperity Services, Mr Shenoy Matthew, GM, Arya Collateral Warehousing Services and Dr Shuchi Mathur, Assistant Director and Chairperson, Centre for Institution Building, NIAM were the main speakers of Webinar.

The various data points were being highlighted at the webinar were:

1. Out of the 92 FPOs studied, 48 took serious initiatives about member awareness of Covid-19.

2. 24 FPOs distributed food and groceries to vulnerable communities, 56% FPOs reported labours returning to villages.

3. 67% FPOs business were highly impacted, 49% FPOs reported a shortage of Finance, 11 out of 18 FPOs dealing in Vegetable reported losses with a reduction of 35% of sales as compared to last year.

4. 28 FPOs took proactive measures to counter business risk. The core reasons contributing towards these impact were Reduced Market Demand, Shortage of Finance and Logistics Breakdown.

The webinar highlighted the major initiatives taken by 41% (28) FPOs took a proactive response to COVID-19 to counter business risk. 48 FPOs mentioned running awareness programs including digital communication, pamphlet distribution and street plays. They communicated regarding the prevention measures from COVID-19. They explained the need for social distancing. Some undertook the distribution of masks (5), Cash advance to members (2) and reaching out to vulnerable communities within their areas (24).

It is also evident that FPOs are not a go-to institution in the mind of the local administration. In only 4/67 cases, district administration proactively reached out to FPOs in the initial time of the lockdown, 3 of them were in one district. In 9 cases, either FPO sourced permission letters or engaged on behalf of farmers with the establishment. Social distancing and limited hours of operation made access to essential services difficult for member farmers, particularly those living at a distance.

Two FPOs reported making an advance to farmers against their standing crops. They also enabled new local markets within their vicinity, enabling produce of some of the members reaching nearby consumers. In an environment looming with uncertainty and anxiety, FPOs present a vehicle for providing credible advice to farmers. In the majority of the surveyed cases, members tried reaching out to FPO during the period of lockdown. In four cases, FPOs have called and advised their farmer members not to resort to distress selling and assured buying support immediately once the lockdown was over.

The next few months will be rife with uncertainty. With the extension of the lockdown and more dynamic decision making based on emerging situations with respect to spreading of COVID-19, the government policy will attempt to balance health and livelihoods, FPOs and other community institutions can be a key partner in the response.

Shortage of Labour is a serious issue in processing plants for non- perishables- oilseeds, grains and pulses. In the absence of these processing plants, the demand for perishables is likely to drop, leading to farmer distress. Poultry is an important industry that besides supporting 10 lakh poultry farmers, also supports maize and soya bean value chains. Urgent coordination with the poultry industry to dispel wrong notions created in consumer minds connecting chicken with the virus is essential.

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