Lockdown delays harvesting, farmers fear heavy lossesUpdated: Mar 26, 2020 20:53 IST
Sukhdeep Singh, 54, a wheat farmer in Shahjahanpur, keeps checking his mobile phone every few minutes. He is waiting for a call from a contractor, who brings harvesting machines from Punjab to harvest his wheat crop.
The contractor was scheduled to reach Singh’s 40-acre wheat farm on March 22, but he called Singh that day and said he wouldn’t be able to come because of the ‘janta curfew’. He has not called since then and when Singh calls him, he is not reachable.
“My crop is ready for harvest. If the contractor doesn’t arrive till Sunday, I will have to bear the losses,” said Singh.
The ‘janta curfew’ was announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to counter the spread of coronavirus and thank the medical staff battling the virus. Later, he announced a 21-day nation-wide lockdown as a war on the virus.
Singh has also tried to gather manual labourers to harvest his crop but in vain. “The labourers are not being allowed by the police to reach the farms. Some labourers have also left for their villages,” he said.
Farmers like Singh are staring at huge losses if they are unable to get their rabi crop harvested, which has become very difficult due to the lockdown.
In Uttar Pradesh, farmers grow wheat, mustard and pulses as the major rabi crops, which are harvested post-Holi.
“My 20-acre farm of mustard and toor dal (arhar dal) is ready for harvest but I have not managed to find labourers for the harvest,” said Sudhir Verma, a farmer of Barabanki district. “At least half of the farmers in the village are unable to find labourers for harvest,” he added.
The farmers with small land holdings are also facing trouble. “I am worried that if we will go to the farms for harvest, it will lead to coronavirus infection. We are not in a position to bear the cost of hospitalisation by falling ill,” Verma added.
The state government is planning to devise a way to assist the farmers to harvest their crops but any concrete solution is yet to be found.
Farmers are also worried about selling their crop in grain markets, which are also shut due to the lockdown.
Beside farmers, dairy owners, especially in urban areas, fear scarcity of fodder for their cattle.
Dr Ravindra Kumar of Indian Council of Agriculture Research (ICAR), who is the nodal officer of farmer advisory services, said, “We have suggested to dairy owners to stock dry fodder for their cattle. The government has allowed fodder shops to open, but there is no compliance.”
ICAR has also asked farmers to contact them for advice on rearing cattle during the lockdown. “We have also requested the local administration to facilitate availability of fodder to dairy owners,” said Kumar.