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Harvesting Season & Covid-19 Lockdown

  • 04 Apr 2020
  • 4 min read

Why in News

Covid-19 lockdown has suspended the supply chain of India’s rice exports as well as badly impacted lakhs of Odisha’s tribals by hampering the sale of Non-Timber Forest Products (NTFP) being collected during March-June.

Key Points

  • Sale of Non-Timber Forest Products (NTFP) Hampered
    • Covid-19 lockdown has coincided with the harvesting season of Non-Timber Forest Products (NTFP). This has made the sale of NTFP impossible.
      • Forest products are seasonal in nature and the tribals earn their major incomes (60%-80%) in the months of March to June.
      • The hard cash earned during these months are critical for their sustenance during the monsoon season when employments dry up.
    • Major NTFPs collected during the summer season include Wild honey, tamarind, mango, tendu leaves, sal leaves, sal seeds, mahua seeds, neem seeds, karanj (pongamia) seeds, mahua flowers and tejpatta (bay leaf).
    • As per conservative estimate, Odisha’s NTFP market pegs at ₹5000 crore.
  • Suggestions
    • The Odisha government should immediately establish and ensure collection centres function under the Van Dhan Vikash Kendra scheme.
      • The Van Dhan Vikas Kendras aim to boost the economic development of tribals involved in the collection of Minor Forest Produce (MFP) and provide a sustainable MFP-based livelihood in MFP-rich districts.
    • Tribal Development Co-operative Corporation of Odisha, which facilitates the marketing of tribal products, must also intervene.
  • Rice exports suspended on supply chain disruption: Indian traders have stopped offering quotes to overseas buyers as they are not sure when they would be able to ship their cargoes.
    • Shipments have stalled as transport has become very difficult because of the lockdown.
    • About 400,000 tonnes of non-basmati rice and 100,000 tonnes of basmati rice, meant for March-April delivery, are either stuck at ports or in the pipeline due to the lockdown.
    • India's export volumes have fallen by four to five times.
    • The halt in Indian rice exports has allowed rival countries such as Thailand to raise shipments in the short term.
    • India mainly exports non-basmati rice to Bangladesh, Nepal, Benin and Senegal, and premium basmati rice to Iran, Saudi Arabia and Iraq.
  • Labour issue
    • A severe shortage of labour, triggered by 21-day lockdown to deal with coronavirus pandemic, will impact harvesting of winter crops of India.
      • The northern states of Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh rely on farm labourers from eastern India for harvesting.
      • Most of the laborers returned home to their villages after the 21 day lockdown that began on March 25, fearing the virus and facing wage disruptions.
    • Farmers worry that the unprecedented labour shortage will make it tougher to get mechanical harvesters to fields or even pluck by hand crops.
    • Late harvests mean lower yields, reduced returns, and a smaller window to plant next season's crops.
    • Farmers' next problem is the struggle of taking produce to market, with few trucks available to carry large volumes.
      • Most farmers sell produce only at wholesale markets which, in turn, depend on armies of labourers to unload, weigh and pack vast amounts of grain.
    • This could also delay farmers' payments for produce.

Source: TH

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