As the rabi season is coming an end in two weeks, the farming community has called for urgent steps to salvage the crop and complete the harvest season without any glitches.
The Consortium of Indian Farmers’ Associations (CIFA) has called for the removal of barricades in villages to facilitate the movement of labourers. It has sought a moratorium on all crop loans and an insurance cover of ₹50,00,00 for farmers and farm labourers, who are exposing themselves to the pandemic risk to ensure the food security of the country, said CIFA.
“In the light of the pandemic, the government should declare a moratorium on the loans disbursed to the farm sector for one crop season similar to the moratorium declared on working capital loans taken by companies,” said CIFA Secretary-General Bojja Dasaratha Rami Reddy.
In a memorandum to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and all the Chief Ministers, he asked the government to provide interest-free loans for the next cropping season.
The consortium said complaints have been pouring in from farmers across the country, calling for urgent measures to remove various hurdles to harvesting amid the lockdown.
“It is not just in the interest of farmers that the nation should do something to address the challenges. During the lockdown it is extremely important to ensure that the food supplies are maintained,” said Reddy.
The farming community is faced with acute labour shortage on account of villages being barricaded to restrict the movement of people and vehicles, said Reddy. “We suggest an immediate removal of all village barricades. Most farms require farm labourers from neighbouring villages and the barricades prevent the free movement of labourers, which is affecting farm operations.”
The problem is more serious for crops such as chillies, horticultural crops and vegetables, he said. “If prompt action is not taken to address this issue, it is likely that there will be a huge loss of crop on account of the produce not being harvested,” he added.
CIFA also pointed out that pesticides and fertilisers are not available to the farmers as supply chains have been hit. “You need pesticides and fertilisers at the crucial phase of the season. You also need people to spray these vital sprays,” he said.
“The fertiliser and pesticide shops are being closed under the local law enforcement, only to be opened as soon as the police leave. There should be clear instructions to the police not to force the input dealers to close shops,” he added.
CIFA said there is an urgent need to formulate a policy for the procurement of perishable agri produce. Since all the market yards in the country are closed, farmers should be provided with an avenue to sell the produce. They would also require transport services to ferry the produce to the markets, said Reddy.
“The farmers have been facing a lot of harassment from the local law enforcement personnel while transporting labourers from the neighbouring villages,” he said. “Lakhs of auto-rickshaws and small trucks would take care of the last mile connectivity to the farms from the main roads. Since all of these small vehicles have been asked to stay off the roads, it has become a tough task for farmers to bring the labourers to the field.”