Viewpoint: Covid-19 and Indian Agriculture

20 JUL,2020 | MEDC


 

It is generally believed that Indian agriculture has not been much affected by Covid-19. However, that isn’t entirely true. While the output of crops has been largely sustained, and, in some cases, even bettered, Covid-19’s long shadow has been cast mainly on the income of farmers. The reason is essentially the supply dislocations during the lockdown period, which coincided with the peak rabi harvest and marketing season. As long as the lockdown does not lift, the erosion of bulk demand from consumers like hotels and restaurants is going to depress the prices of farm produce. That does not bode well for the nation’s farmers. Understandably, it is the perishable produce that suffered the most due to the transportation disruption following the lockdown. For instance, the Nagpur-based Central Citrus Research Institute has estimated the total losses sustained by citrus fruit growers at Rs. 2,995 crore. Likewise, the losses in the banana sector are projected by the Tiruchirappalli-based National Research Centre of Banana at around Rs. 200 crore. The agricultural and the MSME sectors are the key drivers of India’s rural economy and the prolonged lockdown has affected their forward and backward linkages. Climate change and global warming have also combined with Covid-19 to work against Indian agriculture. Ultimately, nature will protect us only if we protect it. That is the simple truth we all need to understand. Environmental concerns have to be at the top of the government’s official priorities if our agricultural sector is to thrive … or even survive.On the flip side, India’s agricultural sector has displayed greater resilience against the Covid-19 outbreak compared to both industry and services, the two other major drivers of economic activity. Agriculture, has, in fact, emerged as a bright spot in India’s otherwise relatively bleak economic scenario. In this context, the government has been proactive and supportive, by lifting lockdown restrictions from agriculture and allied activities at the earliest possible. It has also doubled the agriculture and rural sector spending in April and May in the aftermath of the outbreak. Eventually, Indian agriculture will need to build sustained capacity to cope with an increasingly uncertain future. India continues to reside in its rural areas, where agriculture still remains the single most important economic activity. The agricultural sector has never let India down, and Covid-19 will not be able to dent its innate potential. However, policymakers need to do their homework.

*Photo Credit: Google

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