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COVID-19: Horticulture Farmers in Distress With Extension of Lockdown

Higher costs of harvesting and transportation, fall in prices and demand, and closure of majority of markets and so on has caused farmers to lose thousands of crores in the last four weeks, observers estimate.

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With the nationwide lockdown in place for nearly four weeks, farmers who cultivated vegetables and fruits are facing massive distress due to the disruptions in the supply chains of the agriculture sector. Higher costs of harvesting and transportation, fall in prices and demand, and closure of majority of markets and so on, has caused farmers to lose thousands of crores in the last four weeks, observers estimate. 

Meanwhile, farmers' bodies are demanding the central and state governments to rescue the farmers from the sudden distress and compensate their losses. According to reports, horticulture farmers who cultivated perishables are engulfed in losses across states. 

In Telangana, the state government has announced to procure the paddy crop, the largest cultivated crop in the state, directly from farmers at their village and mandal centres. Farmers who cultivated sweet lime and mango and other fruits are demanding the state government to procure the produce amid fallen demand and lack of markets. “Hundreds of farmers who cultivated sweet lime and mango in Mahaboobnagar and Nalgonda districts are facing difficulties to sell their produce,” Sayanna, president of Telangana Raitanga Samithi told NewsClick. 

In the neighbouring Andhra Pradesh, the state government is making arrangements to procure fruits from farmers and sell them within the state through horticulture department. Whereas, chilli farmers in Guntur district in the state are worrying over the selling and storage of their produce due to the closure of Asia’s biggest chilli market there. Reportedly, the chilli crop is cultivated in 1.75 lakh acres in the district. 

Also read: Unsold Rabi, Unsown Kharif Crop – Farmers in Gujarat Dread a Looming Agrarian Crisis

The lockdown has created an unprecedented crisis for farmers in horticulture, said Ruchit Garg, an agricultural entrepreneur. Garg is one of the founders of the initiative ‘Harvesting Farmers Network’ through which farmers facing challenges in selling their vegetables and fruits are being connected to consumers. “Hundreds of farmers from across states have dialed our helpline seeking help in selling their produce. We are connecting consumers, housing societies and small retail markets with farmers to facilitate procurement,” he told NewsClick. 

While the state governments are making arrangements to ease transportation and market operations concerning the agriculture sector after April 20, reports suggest that massive quantities of vegetables and fruits are already dumped or damaged due to fall in demand. 

For instance, ash gourd farmers in Karnataka’s Shivamogga district are on the verge of losing lakhs as they see a fall in demand from Uttar Pradesh, which alone used to procure 1,500 tonnes of the produce every year. 

In Maharashtra, the closure of Agriculture Produce Market Committees (APMCs) has resulted in farmers dumping their vegetables and fruits in garbage containers due to lack of transportation and market facilities. Farmer’s organisations from the state are also demanding the government to restart APMCs and facilitate farmers in selling their produce. 

The fall in demand for vegetables and fruits is also due to the close of small scale to large hotels and restaurants across the country. 

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