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Asian Tribune is published by E-LANKA MEDIA(PVT)Ltd. Vol. 20 No. 80

Marginalised small land-hold farmers should get integrated support for next cycle of sowing on an immediate basis

By Narsimhan Kasturi Ooty - The Nilgiris, Tamil Nadu
Ooty, (Tamil Nadu) 03 June, (Asiantribune.com):

The Indian horticulture sector, which during last financial year had produced a healthy 315 million tons of harvest, will be skidding substantially during the current financial year if the farmers do not get immediate support on a war footing across the nation.

The onslaught of Covid19 brought along multiple difficulties in the lives of marginalized farmers. The country wide lockdown enforced different types of control measures in different geographies - initially farming, harvesting activities, whole sale market operations, and movement of goods vehicles were completely stopped.

Later it was relaxed to certain extent, where vehicle carrying agriculture produce, whole sale markets and shops were allowed to operate at a specific time and hence the consumption capacity of the markets got limited.

With the aspect of social distancing also the norm, the footfalls during the limited period of time also saw lesser number of consumers getting catered which further hit the offtake from farmers.

“The farmers are at wits end of having ready to harvest crop and with reduced offtake, they are in dilemma. It is highly important for farmers to harvest the crop as they need to keep the land ready for next harvest and also raise resources to buy seeds, plant protection and plant nutrition inputs for the next cycle. The lack of availability of labour at farmlands is adding to the mess for the farmers,” said Palat Vijayaraghavan, Founder & CEO, Lawrencedale Agro Processing India (LEAF), India’s premier agriculture value-chain major.

Even if farmers could somehow managed to harvest with support of family and friends, the large wholesale markets are operating at a fraction of its strength and with it the woes of liquidating the harvest of earning for next crop cycle is further in a mess.

On the global map, India is one of the leading exporters of fruits and vegetables and India accounts for about 10% of total global production of fruits about 15.5% of the global vegetable production. Vast supply of production base, increase in population and potential export market will remain the key drivers of the growth in this sector. “This potential and the inherent adoption of healthy eating habits across India has been driving the growth of this sector and it is imperative that it must be sustained immediately,” Vijayaraghavan added.

Given the fact that Covid-19 will make all businesses adapt to a new reality, the agriculture sector will have no other choice but to innovate. The Government of India along with multiple State Government Agriculture Department are working overtime to bring some sanity to the farming sector and it is here the private sector partnerships are playing a key-role.

The landmark Public-Private-Partnership for Integrated Agriculture Development (PPP-IAD) where Agriculture Departments engage with Private Sector players closely to support the cause of farmers is one of the key platform which can work wonders.

“What is required is an integrated approach of stakeholders -- Government departments, private players, directly involving in multiple stages in the livelihood improvement of marginal farmers. The farmers are confused about various aspects on how they can avail benefits of various schemes and these should be addressed immediately.

The first priority is to liquidate the standing harvest and ensure that the farmers can earn back at least the cost of cultivation. The Government has to ensure that farmers have adequate resources including income, availability of seeds and crop protection and nutrition inputs at nominal costs and which will enable farmers to go in for next crop,” added Vijayaraghavan.

If the link to the next crop cycle is broken, the livelihoods of farmers, especially the marginal land-holders, will be in a tail-spin and it will be a much more costly process to rectify the mess at a later stage.

This crisis which Covid-19 has engulfed the world, can also be used as an opportunity to strengthen the relationship with millions of farmers during this crisis and use this for significant capacity building areas for marginalized farmers.

“Scientific agriculture practices, innovation in organized credit, post-harvest management, extending shelf-life of harvest, efficient storage, smart logistics, and a plethora of options are available from smart entrepreneurs across the landscape and this is a right time to bring that bouquet to the farmers benefit through streamlined channels,” added Vijayaraghavan.

The capacity building, especially for marginalized farmers, is when they try to understand what requirements are at the consumers end – be in the retailers, or at the food processors end, they should get first-hand information and understand how they can fine-tune the practices and engage deeply with the needs of the market.

On a short-term basis, the Government and private sector can align on a war-footing basis to bring in ease of availability of harvesting labour through combined resource pooling and also ensure that the harvest is liquidated at the earliest so that the farmers earn to invest for the next crop cycle.

Integrated logistics solution providers can be called upon to ship the produce with State governments facilitating cross-border movements, which will ensure that the produce is available across India and the farmers will benefit with realistic price discovery mechanism.

Retailers and food processors at the other end of the supply chain will be delighted to work in this transparent mechanism with the support of Government support and which will further enhance the off-take from the growing locations.

The capacity building of farmers to directly understand the dynamics of Go-To-Market strategies is among the key factors which will empower farmers on how they can find best value for their harvest directly.

The private sector has been able to liquidate a phenomenal amount of harvest during the lockdown period and with more aggressive steps from stakeholders it will do wonders for the agriculture sector.

Stay Safe, Stay at Home, Stay Informed, But Don't Forget to Wash Your Hands.

- Asian Tribune -

Fresh Harvested Carrots
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