India’s farmers begin preparations for sowing but worries persist

A worker feeds animals with dry grass at a cattle shop ahead of the Eid al-Adha festival, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Depok, on the outskirts of Jakarta, Indonesia July 28, 2020. Reuters/Ajeng Dinar Ulfiana. Sketched by the Pan Pacific Agency.

NEW DELHI, Jun 11, 2021, The Hindu. Farmers have begun preparations for kharif sowing. However, they are unsure of the effect of lockdown. Nearly three-fourths of the 10 lakh hectares of land will be covered in the kharif season. Most farmers are ploughing their fields. They hope to receive pre-monsoon showers so that they can start sowing, The Hindu reported.

However, they are faced with several challenges.

Vithal Madhav Rao Patil, who is a vegetable grower, said that the extended lockdown has reduced transportation of vegetables and fruits to Goa from Belagavi. “We have suffered huge losses as vegetables are perishable and should be utilised in a day or two. We don’t know if the government will open the markets or resort to lockdown once again, in the name of the third wave, if any,” he said.

Devendrappa Angolkar is working in his sugarcane farm in Bagewadi. His brother, who was working in Belagavi, has come back to work with him in the fields. Angolkar anticipates that the sugar factories may not pay him in time.

“The factories have retained huge arrears of the last four years. As their transactions have been affected, they are in no position to pay arrears. What we suspect is whether they will pay us for our sugarcane this crushing season,’’ he said.

Krishik Samaj president Sidagouda Modagi said that 25 sugar factories owe around ₹150 crore to farmers in Belagavi district. “This is around 30% of all the arrears owed by the 80 functioning factories in the State. Successive governments have failed to force the factories clear their arrears,’’ he said.

Shivanagouda Patil, a foodgrains trader, said that the negative impact of the lockdown will take years to abate. “We have the additional challenge of the weakening of the APMCs. If there is no decentralised, transparent buying, traders are likely to form cartels and cheat farmers,’’ he said.

He said that the government should introduce the weekly shandis and village markets, along with strengthening the APMCs, so that farmers get fair price for their produce.

“The government is yet to release flood loss relief to farmers who lost houses in 2019 and 2020. Even now, they have a vague worry in their mind about possible floods in this monsoon,’’ said a farmers leader Choonappa Pujari.

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