Agriculture is, arguably, the world’s most important activity, providing nutrition and nourishment to the world’s eight billion people. Hence, there’s a need to ensure consistent production in all seasons to sustain a steady supply of food to the world’s teeming population. In India, the kharif season is a tough period for farming. However, it supports some of the country’s biggest food exports, like rice — which earned $10 billion in 2021 — and cotton, which the nation is projected to rank third largest exporter in 2023 with 1.8 million bales. Last year, the country exported 6.2 million bales of cotton.
The agricultural value chain is a massive line of activities that must be handled efficiently; otherwise, there can be huge losses to food production. In kharif crop cultivation, getting the logistics right is a necessity. The focus for many years has been on enhancing productivity, but the entire process can be affected if logistics is not taken care of. There are certain challenges that clog the wheels of progress in kharif crop logistics, including difficulty in getting seeds and taking farm produce out.
Coastal States such as Telangana, Maharashtra, West Bengal, Odisha, Kerala, Assam, and Andhra Pradesh are known for vast kharif crop cultivation because of enormous rainfall that supports the crops. But it’s not all rosy for them and farmers who toil all season for a good yield. The rainy season comes with a lot of challenges both with moving inputs to the farms and getting produce out. Waterlogged roads caused by flooding and typhoons cause disruptions in transporting fertilizers, seeds, insecticides, and other materials to farms where they are needed.
Furthermore, access to farmlands can also be impeded during kharif cultivation. Most rural farms lack good access roads and sandy paths that lead to farms can be easily washed away and flooded by heavy rainfall. When farmers can’t access their farms, it can affect cultivation as well. Detection and plant growth monitoring, application of herbicides, insecticides, and fertilisers can also be disrupted if farmers can’t go to their farms due to logistical challenges.
In the same vein, storage and transportation of farm produce after harvest can be difficult during monsoon season. This is because trucks may find it difficult to pass through flooded roads or even cut-off routes due to severe flooding. What’s more, some specialised trucks may also be needed to move farm produce in the rainy season because exposure to water may lead to the destruction of the crops. Where this is absent, moving these crops can be hindered.
Addressing the issues
Many of the issues identified have to do with infrastructure, especially with regards to adequate drainage that ensures access roads are not flooded during monsoon season. Such proper water channels can help to keep floods away from the roads and make it easier for vehicles to move farm inputs and produce during kharif crop production. This is a step that needs to be taken by the government. On the other hand, using emergency, heavy-duty trucks to get seeds and inputs to farmers can also support kharif crop cultivation significantly.
Furthermore, farmers need to get access to rainproof storage and transport facilities to get their harvests to the market. This may be difficult for smallholder farmers to get on their own, but some sort of incentives or cooperative efforts for collective transport should be considered. Kharif season is such an important farming season in India, and such challenges need to be dealt with to ensure crops are produced consistently and transported to the market in perfect conditions.
The author is Managing Director, IIL