With no announcement regarding any relief measures, the farmers across the state are staring at an imminent setback. The lack of transportation facilities, labourers and unwarranted police action continue to hamper the farming sector during the lockdown to contain the COVID-19 outbreak.
The low price for the produce with the farmers, but escalated price in the markets is another cause of concern. Many of the fruit growers, including the grape producers in Cumbum and Dindigul, are facing a crisis owing to the sealing of interstate borders. The exemption to farming as an essential service is hardly helping the farmers to overcome the crisis.
The farmers are expecting that the state and union governments will announce special relief packages to save the farmers. The front-loading of Rs 2,000 to the farmers through Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi (PMKISAN) is not expected to bring the farmers the relief they need.
LOSS OF THE FARMERS
Subramani, a farmer in Tirupur, used to sell brinjal and ladyfinger cultivated on his small farm land in the Tirupur market regularly. “The lockdown after the spread of the virus has caused severe loss to me,” he said. Forced to sell his produce to the grocery and local vegetable shops, Subramani gets a very low price for his produce. “Since many farmers are afraid to reach the regular markets, the local vendors are taking advantage of it. They are then selling the vegetables at a higher cost to the customers,” added Subramani.
The failure to control the soaring prices and ensuring transport facilities for the farmers to be able to reach the markets are affecting both the farmers and the public. The Tamil Nadu Vivasayigal Sangam, affiliated to the All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS), has demanded that the state government procure vegetables from the farmers directly.
'PROCURE DIRECTLY FROM FARMERS’
Farmers are reportedly facing police intimidation while travelling back from the market. The AIKS state secretary P Shanmugam, while speaking to NewsClick, said, “The present situation warrants that the government acts as a bridge between the farmers and the public. The horticulture and agriculture departments can procure the vegetables and fruits from the farmers and sell to the public through special schemes. Such a mechanism will avert the loss to the farmers as well as the public.”
In certain parts of the state, the local bodies have implemented such schemes to deliver vegetable bags directly at the doorstep at minimal cost. The schemes have been well received by the farmers and the consumers alike.
Also read: Maharashtra: Amid COVID-19 Lockdown, Farmers Selling Milk Face Losses
FRUIT PRODUCERS FACE HUGE LOSSES
The districts of Theni and Dindigul are known for production of grapes. These producers are staring at a loss of around one lakh per acre due to the lockdown. The lack of workers to harvest the grapes is resulting in rotting of the fruits in the farmland itself. The neighbouring states of Kerala and Karnataka are huge markets not only for these grape producers, but also for the banana producers. The interstate borders are closed for transport and the difficulties in transporting these perishable goods add to the agony of the farmers.
A local banana vendor from Erode said, “We used to sell around one and a half lakh bananas everyday in Coimbatore through the handcart sellers. This sale has been completely stopped due to the lockdown. Like the other state markets, the local retail markets play a vital role in helping the farmers. The farmers and the retail sellers who depend on daily sales have lost their livelihood.”
'ANNOUNCE RELIEF PACKAGE’
The farmers are left to fend for themselves as no relief measure to help these farmers specifically has been announced by the state or the central government.
“The farmers are awaiting a special relief package for them. The number of beneficiaries also remains a cause of concern as there are two different numbers announced by the finance minister. In most places, the farmers are finding it difficult to reach their farmlands. They are unable to water their plants and trees which will lead to further losses in the immediate future. The governments should seriously consider a specific and useful relief package for the farmers,” Shanmugam added.
Even though agriculture-related activities are exempted from the lockdown, the ground reality narrates a completely different story. Low cost for produce, increasing cost of fertilisers, lack of transportation facilities and shutting down major markets are hurting the farmers gravely.
Also read: COVID-19 Lockdown: Dearth of Labourers Slows Down Harvesting in Bihar