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Mainstream, VOL LVIII No 19 New Delhi, April 25, 2020

Agricultural and lockdown for covid19: Some preliminary evidences from rural India

Saturday 25 April 2020

by Atanu Sengupta and Asish Kumar Pal

Abstract: As we have already acknowledged that India is developing economy, it is stated as an economy passing through demand depression and high unemployment. With an increasing number of coronavirus case, they government has lockdown transport services, closed all economy without some some necessary and urgent sectors, factories, public and private offices and restricted mobilisation. No doubt it would slowdown the supply side. At the time of boro paddy harvesting the farmers of rural economy will suffer though both the central and state government has decided to permit the activities in agricultural sector. Most of the rural people depends on agricultural related activities in our state as well as country. Impact of lockdown system for protect of covid -19 will crisis the rural economy from the two dimensions as supply side as demand side.

Keywords: Agriculture, Lockdown, Covid – 19, Rural, Economy

Introduction:

Prime minister Naendra modi announced 21 days lockdown and also added 19 days more in India due to covid 19 epidemic. The covid -19 is the first and foremost human disaster in this year. WHO declared a pandemic situation by which more than 200 countries as well as territories have suffered and near about 1 lakh 60 thousands deaths globally, 500 deaths country wide and 15 deaths in West Bengal till now [10].

In this situation our country is passing through demand depression and high unemployment till. Now. It would also slowdown the supply side of the economy. “With an increasing number of coronavirus cases, the government has lockdown transport services, closed all public and private offices, factories and restricted mobilisation” ( Mukherjee et al, April,2020) [4]. According to MRD report there is a job loss of 40 million people in the country[3]. There are several sectorial impact such as Restaurant services, Food and agriculture, Micro small and medium( MSME) sector, Online business or Internet business sector ( Mukherjee, Roy and Bag; 7th April, 2020) [4]. As per recent NSSO report ,agriculture employed more than 50% of the Indian workforce and contributed 17- 18% to country’s GDP. So agriculture sector is the most priority sector in Indian economy [5]. In this scenario coronavirus lockdown will have an adverse effect on the agricultural sector in rural areas of West Bengal.

Now it is the time of boro paddy harvesting season in rural areas of West Bengal. Farmers worry about their standing crops. Though both the central and state government have permitted or cut to continue the activities in agricultural sector, the rural farmers may be faced some terrible problems. They have already complained about their crops damage due to to lockdown and heavy rainfall recently. Our aim of study is the adverse effect of lockdown on agricultural sector of West Bengal.

Some recent studies: The supply of the food and agriculture production will be affected in the coming seasons to low sowing of the upcoming seasonal crops which will affect the mandi operations as said by the ministry of Agriculture.

Rice mills come to stand still despite exemption from lockdown by kar Peasant, March 26, 2020 [3].

India’s ongoing lockdown to control the spread of coronavirus is threatening the agriculture sector as it overlaps with the time of harvest (Aggarwal, 3rd April, 2020) [6].

According to Patel, in his famous paper “Covid 19 lockdown locks down farmer’s income” a farmer in village Valvada in valsad area in Gujarat, ground chilli and brinjal on his 22 – acre farm his crops are ready for harvest but the ongoing lockdown has disrupted his plans [2].

GKS’s (Gujarat Khedut Samantha) president Jayesh Patel cited the example of Gujarat “In our area, fruits like banana, chiku, watermelon and vegetables are ready for harvest. But neither there is labour to help nor is there a buyer. The main concern is that there are perishable items and if not harvested in time they will become unusable (published by Aggarwal, April, 2020) [7].

The country wide lockdown to contain the spread of novel coronavirus (Covid 19) has triggered labour shortage in many areas, impacting the harvest and marketing of rabi crops such as mustard, wheat, pulses and paddy (Vora et.al, March 25, 2020) [9].

According to Gurmeet Singh of Bhattiwal Khurd village in Sangrur, (March 25, 2020), harvesting mostly done by combine harvester, and if the carfiew is continued then it will bring hardship for every farmer [8].

Methodology:

We have selected two villages of West Bengal in our study. These villages are totally based on agricultural activities ( like potato and boro paddy production). We have taken 100 farmers who are directly exposed to effects of lockdown by government. We have devided the farmers into three categories i.e big farmers, small farmers and marginal farmers. In our study we have shown how they are affected class wise. In the present study we concentrate on 100 stratified farmers of the selected villages.

Table 1: Distribution of sampled farmers

Marginal (1-4 acre). 35
Small (5-10 acre) 35
Large > 10 acre 30

A detailed questionnaire was prepared to elicit a wide amount of information about these land holders. The questionnaire may be sub grouped under several conditions such as amount of their cropped area, crisis of labour, status of crops, inconvenience of harvesting in this period, shortage of market and storage etc. We have also collected information regarding income from agricultural sources and any other source of income of their family, their expenditure during this seasonal crops.

Result of the study:

We now consider the labour shortage. It is the main obstacle to harvest the boro crops in the study area. We see that large farmers depend on migrant labours though small and marginal farmers depend on local farmers. Migrant farm labourers are moving back to their native places. Thus there is a direct effect of migrant labour crisis on the large farmers.

Table 2A: Dependence of migrants labour among the large farmers

Users. 27
Not users. 03

Table 2B: Dependence on (local) labour among the small farmers

Users. 28
Not users. 07

Table 2C: Dependence on (Local) labour among the marginal farmers

Users. 04
Not users 31

However the story does not ends here. Due to lockdown even the supply of local labourers has also dried up considerably. This is affecting the small and marginal farmers. Most of the farmers (about 90%) are worried about of harvesting the crops during the covid -19.

Table 3 : Opinion about damage of crops among all types of farmers due to proper maintenance like fertilizer, irrigation, labour crisis

Farmers. Damage not damage
Marginal 26. 06
Large 30. 00

Secondly, the farmers basically hire the heavy machinery for collecting the crops. This type of machinery is brought from other states like Punjab, Haryana and Utter Pradesh. Lockdown is creating major problem here. Now it is another problem which is faced by them.

Another problem faced by the marginal farmers is that during this period shortage of capital. As a result of this they cannot to provide the water into their cropped areas. They are basically daily labour in their locality. Due to lockdown period they have lost the works. They do not have sufficient money to expend on irrigation system. They cannot buy appropriate fertilizer which is necessary for growth of crops. Big farmers also use fertilizer and irrigation due to crisis of labour. Some small farmers are also suffering from this. So 85% famers are afraid from damage or low production of crops (Table 3).

Next we consider the closing of markets. In most of the states some markets remain closed. The lockdown has disrupted supply chains for most crops. Many rice mills are closed due to deficiency of labour supply. So the farmers specially 78% of large farmers will face the problem to supply their crops properly to rice mill owners. The marginal and small farmers 84% of them sell their crops ‘fore’ or intermediaries. They also think their crops will remain in unsold situation due to lockdown for covid -19.

Table 4: Opinion for storage of paddy during the lockdown period among the big farmers

Closed for rice mill. 24 06
Closed for transport system. 22 08

Next problem is transportation which indirectly affects on boro production in rural economy. Transportation helps the rural economy. Although the government has permitted to agro crops related transport most of the farmers are not expecting to supply properly in market. Many track drivers are not in working condition due to spread of coronavirus.

Table 5: Expenditure per acre (on boro paddy) among the farmers

No of farmers. Expenditure (RS)
85. 11,000 – 12000
09. 10,000
06. 10,000- 12,000

Now coming to the point of economic aspect of land holders, It is stated that most of the large farmers depend on agricultural income from boro cultivation. They expend Rs 10000-12000 per acre. So if they cannot harvest paddy properly, they will be at a loss.
Similarly 82% of small farmers are expected same. It is astonished that 95% of marginal farmers who are not directly linked with agricultural marketing are also afraid of huge amount of loss. Maximum of them have taken loan from ’mohajon’ or cooperative bank in rural area. They are worried about to pay the loan. Perhaps they may be in trap of debt. They will face on distress sell. As a result one type of black marketer, speculators will be appeared in rural economy. Despite of huge production, man – made deficiency of food grains will be created.

Table 6: Afraid about loss of boro production during this season due to lockdown

No of farmers. Opinion
70 yes
11. May be or may not be
13. overcome the loss at any cost
06. No opinion

Conclusion:

From the above analysis we observe that there are two aspects of problem in rural agriculture one is demand side another supply side. In rural India most of the people depends on agriculture or activities related to it. If they are unable to earn proper income, they will have no purchasing power. The rural economy will be in crisis. On the other hand if the agricultural production is low or if they do not harvest boro paddy at the lockdown period there will be a sharp decline in production. This will lead to deficiency of food crops. As a consequence, food crisis will be created in India during the disease of covid -19.

References:

Aggarwal, Maynak. (April, 2020), A report on impact of lockdown in Indian agriculture, india .mongabay.com
Kar, Peasant, (March, 2020) A report of lockdown in agricultural sector, economicstime India .com
Ministry of Agriculture report (April,2020).
Mikherjee, Tanisha., Roy, Nilanjan., Bag, Sudin, (April, 2020), “ Opinion: Impact of covid -19 on the Indian Economy, economictimes.com
NSSO report, 2020
Patel, Bharat (April, 2020), “Covid -19 lockdown locks down farmer’s income”, India.mongabay.com
Singh, Gurmmut ( March, 2020), “A report of Agricultural effects due to lockdown period” the hondu .com
Vora et.al,(March, 2020 ) “A news on agriculture for covid- 19”, the Hindustan times line.com
World Health Organisation Report (Updated)

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Authors:

Atanu Sengupta, is Professor, Economics Department, Burden University, West Bengal
email:sengupta_atanu[at]yahoo.com

Asish Kumar Pal, is Assistant Professor, Economics Department, Taraleswar Degree College, West Bengal,
email: Asish.kr.pal[at]gmail.com

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