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Mandi’s Lockdown and Corona Lockdown Challenges Nationally: Spiralling from Farmers to Consumers!

Dr. Lakshmi Unnithan
Dr. Lakshmi Unnithan
fruit market

The Nationwide crisis of Corona and its Lockdown Procedure Challenges are umpteen. The challenges are being spiralling from the Farm Laborers to Farmers, Collecting agents, Truck Owners to Truck Drivers, Whole Sale Mandis to E commerce Online Platforms to Retail Shops to Small Scale platforms and the Consumers finally. With the Nationwide lock down till April 15 things seem to really grow out of proportion and control. The Harvest season is on and several trucks of crops including grains, pulses and fruits and even tender vegetables that are prone to Decay like the coriander has started piling up. A huge loss for the farmer who has been working so hard. This wasn’t a planned lock down at all, if it could have been planned from January and the Government could have proactively done to avoid some of these huge losses. When the urban rich hoard, the rural poor has no clue as to what has to be done. As time goes, the urban consumers will also be hit due to a rise in prices. 

Hindu reports that  the mandis opened last week with their prices descending and their ground check revealed traders in Agra, Madhya Pradesh, paid wheat farmers only ₹1,600-1,700/quintal against the MSP of ₹1,925/quintal. Lentil trading was done at  ₹4,300/quintal versus the MSP of ₹4,800/quintal; gram (chickpea) was traded at ₹3,900-4,000/quintal versus MSP of ₹4,875/quintal. 

I was in conversation with Vipin Nair from an E-Commerce platform named “Farmery” in Gurgaon an endeavor to connect responsible fruit farmers to conscious consumers on a single platform. This platform allows access to “Clean” chemical-free fruit with complete transparency and traceability on the farm side. Due to COVID- 19 scare logistics of fruits and other items has been temporarily stopped from other parts of the country. Farmer regrets to say that they will soon be back once the logistics are in order. They regret the inconvenience caused.  

Vipin Nair also goes on to say that at present all farmers are very confused. Keeping produce at hand, not knowing where to send is a mental disturbance. Mandi is closed so there are no trucks coming in either. That has put a stop to everything. Big farmers are still able to move their produce elsewhere to godowns that are costly at present. They have access to information but smaller farmers are totally clueless. The crisis is going to deepen at all levels. Farmers are staring at big losses while the customers are unaware of where to buy and at what price. This uncertainty has pushed us to stop taking orders and inform the customers that it is not going to be possible to deliver. But 21 days is going to be a long period for perishable goods. Our farmers have trucks full of fruit that have reached the Mandi on Saturday and now they are clueless of what to do. The numbers are really big and we know they will not even be able to salvage the costs of transportation.  

For smaller ecommerce stores like “Farmery” transportation of goods was reliant on trains & buses mostly. With those not working there is increased trouble. Even trucks are not booking part loads so we have no option but to shut down say Vipin Nair. What we dread is when the markets open now - they would be flooded by produce and so that will drive down the price massively and definitely impact the future cycles of production. The impact of this will be felt the next year and the year after that too - with drop in production, skepticism at farmer end etc.  

Suggestions to Tackle  

1. There are no easy ways now, we hope the Mandis open at least for a few hours and some goods get transported locally to nearby Cities at least the supply of good that has reached the Mandis be done quickly that they will not suffer damage. 

2. The government should provide curfew-pass to traders (both sellers and buyers) as well as labourers and ensure smooth passage of their vehicles. 

3. We actually stand at a point where we dreading to think any life threatening measures be taken by the farmer at this point. We are looking at some relaxation on loan repayments and postponing interest due dates on Kisan Credit Card (KCC) loans for farmers. 

4. If any loans taken by these farmers for  the last cropping season ,kindly analyse the situations and waive it off  

5. Considering this as an unpredicted calamity rightful  Insurances be given. 

6. Some part  of the money to be given to farmers  along with the PM Kisan Scheme 

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