Agri Business

Covid-19: New restrictions worry Maharashtra farmers

BL Pune Bureau | | | Updated on: Dec 26, 2021

Many farmers are still reeling under crop losses caused by rains and floods

Maharashtra government’s decision on Friday to announce a night curfew from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. in view of a rising number of Covid-19 cases has put the farming community in a worry. Even as the government has not put any restrictions on agriculture activities, farmers who are already battered by unseasonal rains say that disruption in the economic cycle will affect them in a big way.

“ During earlier lockdowns the government allowed seed, pesticide, fertiliser shops to remain open. Even other activities were allowed but sowing and harvesting activities were expensive affairs because of the scarcity of labour. Also, very few farmers were able to take their products directly to the consumers as markets were closed”, said Yogesh Ugale, a farmer in Nashik. He fears that more restrictions or lockdowns will incur losses to small onion farmers like him as establishments like restaurants and student hostels who buy onions from him will stop buying during the lockdown.

Even as government claims that inter and intra State movement of farm machinery especially combined harvesters were facilitated, farmers say that they faced major difficulties because of various restrictions put by the local authorities.

“Agricultural activities continued during earlier lockdowns but if lockdowns are imposed again, it would be difficult for us to survive. Many farmers are already reeling under loan burdens due to losses in floods and rains. We need some time to recover,” said Baba Sawat, a farmer from Sangli.

Credit concerns

The Union Agriculture Ministry told Lok Sabha recently that during the first wave of Covid-19 pandemic, the government extended the date of renewal of short term agriculture loans that had become due or would have become due between March 1, 2020 and August 3, 2020 up to August 21, 2020 with the commensurate benefit of 2 per cent interest subvention and 3 per cent prompt repayment incentive up to extended date.

During the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic (2021), the government extended the date of renewal of the short term agriculture loan which had become due or would have become due between March 1, 2021 and June 30, 2021 up to June 30, 2021 with the commensurate benefit of 2 per cent interest subvention and 3 per cent prompt repayment incentive up to extended date.

“There is a huge number of farmers who are out of institutional credit system. Also, those who are part of the formal credit system are not in a position to repay loans. Condition in rural areas is already bad and it would become worse if lockdown is imposed. The economy of the region largely depends on agriculture and allied activities and Covid has already disturbed our economic cycle. Farmers are not in a position to face another lockdown,” says Sunanda Kharate, a farmer from Osmanabad.

Sugarcane cutters

New restrictions by the State government have also panicked sugarcane cutters in western Maharashtra. “The government has started imposing restrictions and these restrictions could increase. The sugarcane season is still on and we don’t know if we have to return back to our villages,” says Tukaram, a sugarcane cutter working in Mhaisal. During the last Covid-19 wave sugarcane cutters continue to work as they feared losing the work and money.

Published on December 25, 2021
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