Vegetable and fruit growers are most affected by a 21-day nationwide lockdown imposed to investigate the spread of coronavirus disease (Kovid-19). This reflects a steep decline in the arrival of fruits and vegetables in bulk mandis, which are either closed or are operating under restrictions.
For example, the Vashi Vegetable Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC) near Mumbai announced the closure of the virus. Pune’s Gultekdi wholesale market also closed on Thursday, while Vashi Grain APMC called a meeting on Saturday to decide if it should be closed.
ALSO READ: Coronavirus LIVE: Global death toll crosses 100,000; America, Italy hit the worst
Many large vegetable and fruit markets across the country have a similar situation, as they are either closed or allow traders to market in limited quantities. There is a situation that in some places farmers have chosen to throw vegetables and milk because they could not reach the mandis due to lack of transport. There were also cases of uprooting of vegetables in some places like Uttar Pradesh.
Due to this, the arrival of potato in Agra market was reduced by 30 per cent to 1,400 tonnes. The arrival of onion in Lasalgaon was supposed to be at its peak, but it has been discontinued. According to Credit Suisse research, “Despite the actual evidence of a bumper crop, the market is registering a 50–95 percent decline year-on-year. During the lockdown all the perishable and grain arrivals have fallen ”.
“Along with the rabi harvest season, now the market is booming for wheat, pulses like pulses and fruits like mangoes in summer,” the report said. It states that the reason for the low arrivals is from “shortage of trucks, labor shortages for loading / unloading materials”.
Foodgrains and pulses producers are in better condition, even though many mandis are closed, as their yield is not poor.
ALSO READ: In Ball of Centre’s Court: India sits tight as states to expand lockdown
To mitigate the situation, the central government last week wrote to all states to allow farmers to sell directly without coming to the market. However, no state has yet implemented the directives.
It is not just access to markets that have proved to be a problem. Farmer leaders say that the lockout has created a big problem, lack of ready cash, which can curb the purchase of seeds and fertilizer for summer crops and until the next kharif sowing season starting in June. It may also expand.
Bhagwan Meena, the young farmer leader of Madhya Pradesh, said, “Even before the closure of mandis, the prices of many early rabi crops like gram and mustard in Madhya Pradesh were 20-30 percent below the minimum support price. Now if the market jumps inward after opening, the prices will naturally fall. ‘
Consortium of Indian Farmers’ Associations (CIFA) adviser P Chengal Reddy said that the current labor shortage could extend to the coming kharif season as migrant workers look to avoid the uncertainty of work. He suggested that like food grains, the government needed to arrange railway wagons for loading at all important fruit growing centers in the major producing states. These issues have once again focused on reforms in agricultural marketing.
Neelkanth Mishra, managing director of equity research at Credit Suisse, said the current situation could be used as an opportunity for reforms. “Regular (agricultural) markets are not functional, parallel channels are emerging. Some states are granting temporary permission to large buyers such as grocery chains and e-commerce firms to buy directly from farmers. Farmers are being allowed to give their produce directly to consumers. If these are beyond lockdown, they could end APMC’s monopoly, with many responsible for inefficiencies. “
Improvements in marketing have been going on for a long time, with the central government asking states to join the National Agricultural Market (eNAM) online platform, despite floating a model APMC Act. However, progress has been slow.
Vijay Sardana, an agri-business expert said, “With APMC the time has come for farmers to have an alternative mechanism to sell their produce. APMC can continue work, direct procurement from farmers will be promoted. “