With tourism drying up, Goans fall back on agriculture, fishing
Hotels have laid off staff en masse leaving people without a regular source of income since the pandemic forced India in March to suspend almost all visas, modes of transport, including international flights, to check its spread and hit the tourism sector the hardest.Updated: May 30, 2020 04:09 IST
Goa’s agriculture department has reported over four-fold increase in the demand for mainly vegetable seeds in April and May that officials say indicates people have begun to fall back upon their traditional sources of income to tide over the fallout of the Covid-19 pandemic on the state’s tourism-dependent economy.
“Usually, we used to sell between 200-250 kilos of seeds during this time of the year. But this year, we have already sold 800 kilos,” said state agriculture department director Nevil Alphonso. “This is one of the clearest indicators that people are going back to agriculture in these times.”
He said the biggest demand has been for vegetable seeds which can be grown multiple times. “We are also seeing an increase in the demand for paddy seeds, but we will have to wait until the end of June to measure the increase in area under paddy cultivation--Goa’s staple crop...”
Vegetables offer farmers better returns and unlike rice can be sold locally even in small quantities. The demand is mainly for vegetables like gourds, pumpkins, and cucumbers which grow in this season as well as beans and ladyfingers.
Damião Telles, who ran a stall along the Candolim beach serving tourists, said they have to do something to feed themselves. “Some will go back to fishing, some to farming.”
Goa’s economy has largely been dependent on tourism. Most stakeholders like tourist taxi operators, small hotel and shack owners, left traditional occupations of their forefathers like fishing and farming to get into the tourism sector.
Hotels have laid off staff en masse leaving people without a regular source of income since the pandemic forced India in March to suspend almost all visas, modes of transport, including international flights, to check its spread and hit the tourism sector the hardest. In 2019, over 5 million international and domestic tourists visited the state, and between 9-11% to the state’s GDP, according to official data.
Miguel Braganza, a former agriculture professor at the Don Bosco College of Agriculture, said they have been guiding and encouraging people to plant in their own backyards and kitchens or in whatever area they can find. “We are teaching them techniques on what crops can be grown alongside others to help with the soil fixation.”
A task force that the Goa government has set up to recommend an economic revival plan for each village has suggested all panchayats should identify potential activities within the village to provide livelihoods to the people. The activities relate to horticulture, poultry, dairy, fishing and revival of micro and small scale industries as well as traditional arts.
Chief minister Pramod Sawant said he expects the slowdown in tourism to be temporary. “Tourism may have dropped for now, but when tourism starts, Goa tourism is in a better position to quickly rebound in comparison with the rest of the country and will scale new heights. We will bring in new concepts to promote tourism.”
Allwyn Jorge, a panchayat representative from Carmona,said there are some encouraging signs but several problems lie along the way including the high cost of labour and its shortage. “The government should try and ensure that more people are enthused by this.”