In pics: Agriculture activity picks up amid coronavirus lockdown crisis

After Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the extension of the nationwide lockdown till May 3, the Ministry of Home Affairs recently came out with some guidelines about what activities that have been allowed and what will remain restricted. 

Farming operations are among those exempted from the lockdown restrictions. 
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A farmer waits for his wheat produce procured at the New Grain Market amid ongoing COVID-19 lockdown, in Chandigarh. Photo: PTI

In an attempt to provide relief to the rural sector amid the coronavirus crisis, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) on Friday, allowed procurement of agricultural products, marketing through notified mandis and direct and decentralised marketing, among others. 

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A labourer piles up wheat grain at the New Grain Market as its procurement is picking up, amid ongoing Covid-19 lockdown. Photo: PTI

This year, the government plans to purchase around 40 million tonnes of wheat from farmers  of which Punjab is projected to buy around 14 million tonnes, Madhya Pradesh 10 million tonnes and UP another 5.5 million tonnes. Haryana is planning to purchase around 7.5 million tonnes of wheat.

 

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A farmer shows wheat grains after threshing at a field. Photo: PTI

Together these four states account for over 90 per cent of the country’s annual wheat purchases at a fixed minimum support price.

 

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A labourer cleans wheat grain at a market. Photo: PTI

In Madhya Pradesh, in most government procurement centres, which has been increased to over 4300, farmers are being called in two shifts to sell their wheat. Only 20 farmers from each panchayat are allowed to sell in one shift to ensure that there is no overcrowding in the mandis.

 

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Workers remove the rotting vegetables which were dumped by vendors near the APMC market, during ongoing COVID-19 lockdown in Karad. Photo: PTI

While social distancing is needed to control the spread of Covid-19, for many farmers the spectre of distress sale looms large as purchases have to be staggered over a period of time to ensure that few farmers gather at the mandis.

 

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Labourers winnow wheat grains after harvesting. Photo: PTI

The annual purchases of major rabi crops in North India largely wheat, mustard and also chana to some extent have been delayed as most cereal mandis were closed in the aftermath of the nationwide coronavirus lockdown.  

 

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Photo: PTI

In Haryana, where the state government has started the purchase of mustard ahead of the annual wheat procurement season, till Friday evening around 58,000 tonnes of mustard had been purchased from over 23,000 farmers.

 

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Farmers use a combined harvester in a wheat field. Photo: PTI

In Uttar Pradesh, the wheat procurement will gather steam in the next 3-4 days. The state plans to purchase 5.5 million tonnes of wheat from farmers this year.

 

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Labourers sort onions after harvesting at a field. Photo: PTI

The relaxations given in the last few weeks have allowed them to open but their functioning has been staggered to prevent crowding by farmers, traders, wage laborers and others.

 

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A farmer harvests wheat crop at a field during a nationwide lockdown in the wake of coronavirus pandemic, Amritsar. Photo: PTI

With migratory labourers having expertise in planting rice returning to Uttar Pradesh and Bihar after the lockdown announcement last month, Punjab is urging its farmers to grow cotton or maize as the next crop for the kharif season.  


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