While the India Meteorological Department (IMD) has predicted a normal monsoon this year, the farming community is worried due to prolonged lockdowns in many states.
The pandemic’s rise in rural regions is particularly concerning, but whether it will affect Kharif sowing will be determined as the season progresses over the following few weeks.
Although some stakeholders believe Covid in rural regions will have little effect on kharif seeding, farmers claim they are experiencing the effects of the prolonged lockdown.
The difficulties that growers face
Despite the fact that the agriculture industry is excluded, lockdown limitations have created problems like as a labour scarcity and a shortage of input supplies, as well as impacting farmers’ income by making it impossible to market their goods.
Farmers will also suffer the brunt of increasing fuel prices during the current kharif season, which is expected to drive up cultivation costs.
Higher diesel costs, according to Rohtash Mal, Chairman of EM3 Agri-Services, have resulted in a 25% increase in farm machinery rentals.
According to Duli Chand, a farmer representative from Kota, Rajasthan; rentals are up 20-25%t for both the rabi harvesting and kharif sowing seasons.
‘Tractors with conventional engines are costing ₹ 600 per acre, up from ₹ 500 the previous year. The disc harrow, which is better for black soil since it can turn up material from deeper layers, costs ₹ 900 per acre, up from ₹ 700 previously Chand remarked.’
‘At this point, it appears that Covid will have no effect on kharif sowing,’ told B. V. Mehta, Executive Director of the Solvent Extractors’ Association of India, the country’s leading trade association for edible oils.
‘Agriculture is the only sector that has outperformed the rest of the economy since last year’s Covid. I don’t believe agriculture will have any issues this year,’ Mehta stated.
Input vendors who are optimistic
Input suppliers are equally optimistic about the kharif chances. The demand for fertilisers is projected to be robust in this kharif season, according to Sailesh C Mehta, Chairman and Managing Director, Deepak Fertilisers and Petrochemicals Corporation. Farmers are in a far better position than previous season, he said. They are willing to pay extra for higher-quality products that will result in a higher yield.
Although the lockdown imposed by some states may offer some issues, agriculture inputs and equipment are protected from limitations on commodities movement under the Essential Commodities Act, according to Mehta.
According to K. J. Oneil, former Deputy Director of Agriculture in Kerala, the closure of stores selling agricultural product during the lockdown has hampered the timely availability of inputs such as seeds, fertilisers, and soil ameliorants such as lime and insecticides.
Allow for no-hassle farming
It was stated that good seeds produce a 20-25% higher yield when combined with a favourable climate. The timely application of these inputs, in particular, is essential for good paddy production. However, the pandemic’s evolving position is anticipated to have an impact on productivity during Kharif season.
According to Oneil, the State governments, should carefully consider permitting agricultural commodity outlets to operate in the same way as other important businesses such as medical shops, milk supplies, and eateries in the times of lockdown to allow for hassle-free cultivation for all crops.
Kharif sowing of crops like maize, green gramme (moong), cotton, and groundnut, among others, has begun in states like Karnataka, with farmers covering 3.05 lakh hectares as of May 31, compared to 2.96 lakh hectares in previous year, sources added.
The monsoon, which usually arrives on June 1 along the Kerala coast, has been postponed till Thursday (June 3), according to the IMD.
However according Kurbur Shantakumar, a farmer leader in Karnataka, the proliferation of covid in rural regions, combined with a slew of other concerns sparked by the lockdown, could have an impact on kharif plantings.
Farmers are having difficulty obtaining the necessary seeds and inputs due to restrictions on timings for shops selling such product as a result of the prolonged lockdown, which has coincided with the start of sowing season.
Seed firms are also having difficulty distributing seeds in the hinterlands. ‘Unlike last season, when we faced similar situations, Covid-19 has affected a big number of workers in the value chain this year. Dealers and personnel in the supply chain are affected,’ stated Mithun Chand, Kaveri Seeds’ Executive Director.
Seed corporations, on the other hand, have stepped up their efforts to guarantee that farmers have enough seeds. False seeds and unauthorised Bt seeds are another major issue for farmers.