A fifth of Indian farmers may not get seed, fertiliser supplies this kharif

No buyers are available for agriculture produce due to the restrictions imposed.
A staggering 20 per cent of farmers in the country may not be able to get seed and agrochemical supplies this kharif season due to problems in transporting from the manufacturer to the distributor and retailer. This is because the inter- and intra-state movement of trucks has been severely disrupted by the ongoing nationwide lockdown.

Seeds, fertilisers, pesticides and other agrochemicals are categoriesed as essential commodities and are exempted from any restrictions. However, the movement of trucks and other modes of transport still isn;t normal despite the fact that both, the Centre and states have allowed transportation of essential commodities during the lockdown period, which has been extended to May 3. 

With local authorities restricting the movement of trucks carrying agrochemicals, seeds and fertilisers, there has been a shortage of these key inputs for the kharif sowing season, which has already commenced in major agrarian states.

“We are trying our best to reach out to all farmers to supply seeds this kharif season. But we may not be able to reach out to more than 80 per cent of our customers across India and neighbouring countries such as Nepal. So, 20 per cent of the farmers we cater to may not have access to seeds,” said Satish Kagliwal, managing director, Nath Seeds, whicj sells seeds for use in agriculture, horticulture and floriculture.

Agrochemical companies across the country are facing similat transportation issues, with local authorities denying carriers permission to ply. Labour shortage and closure of retail shops in the major growing centres have aggravated the problem.

“The lockdown has impacted agriculture, poultry and farm labourers immensely. Also, the supply-chain issue has hit the availability of agro input at the distributor and retailer level. The government must cut goods and services tax (GST) on agrochemicals from the existing 18 per cent to 5 per cent; This would lower cost of cultivation of farm produce. The government should also lift the ban on export of select farm produce, as such a move would elevate their prices locally and benefit farmers,” said Maheshkumar Khambete, General Manager (Marketing), Indofil Industries Ltd, a major agrochemical producer.

Interestingly, no buyers are available for agriculture produce due to the restrictions imposed. 

Harvesting of rabi crops like wheat, rice and pulses has been delayed throughout the nation, and growers have begun incurring huge losses as perishables like grapes and mango start rotting. 

“In many states, various products have been banned despite having required regulatory approvals. States should relook this decision so that farmers have more choices available. Also, the sale of seeds and agrochemicals through e-commerce would certainly help. The government should also extend crop loan moratorium to facilitate easy repayment,” said Khambete.

While supplies to nearby places would not be an issue even after the lockdown ends on May 3, farmers in remote Indian villages would not be able to get their seeds due to closure of shops in local areas there. “By the time seeds would reach them, the sowing would have beed delayed,” said Kagliwal.

Meanwhile, agro input companies are operating with in-house labour and an intermittently available workforce from outside. The farm input sector is facing a huge shortage of workforce for packaging as well. 

With the monsoon rainfall forecast to remain normal this year, farmers are expected to buy seeds and other inputs once the lockdown ends. But, seed manufacturers see no increase in agro input prices.

"Due to the lock down our Industry is faced with the challenge of making the seeds available to the farmers in time for the coming kharif. We are making efforts on a war footing to overcome the challenges. There has been very good support from both, the Centre and  various state governments in this regard. We are confident that we would be able to meet the demand of farmers during the ensuing season," said Ram Kaundinya, Director General of Federation of Seed Industry of India.

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