Bayer, the global agriculture input company, plans to support 4 lakh smallholder farmers in 204 districts across 17 States in view of the ongoing Covid crisis and lockdowns.

Special focus will be on key crops such as rice, corn, vegetables and millets grown largely by women smallholder farmers and migrant labourers who have returned to their villages and plan to take up farming in their small family farms, said the company in a statement on Wednesday.

Each smallholder farmer will receive one free package containing hybrid seeds of the crops cultivated in their region and crop protection inputs. In addition, Bayer will handhold farmers from sowing to harvest with advisory on crop, disease and pest management, besides helping them on market access for their produce.

The package will also contain face masks and personal protective equipment to support farmers’ health and safety needs. These care packages will be distributed through its local networks of Farmer Producer Organisations, Farmer Producer Companies and Self-Help Groups focused on agriculture. Bayer will also provide training to farmers to improve capacity building on the use of modern agricultural technologies.

D Narain, CEO, Bayer CropScience, said smallholder farmers play a crucial role in ensuring food security, but the ongoing Covid situation and restrictions on movement have impacted their access to seeds, crop protection inputs and labour.

Bayer’s ‘Better Farms, Better Lives’ initiative will provide immediate additional support to smallholder farmers in the form of agri-inputs and advisory during this Kharif season and beyond. It will also strengthen the livelihoods of smallholder communities most impacted by Covid-19. In the long-term, the company aims to help smallholder farmers achieve higher crop yields and use their farms as a source of sustainable income, rather than just a means to survive, said Narain.