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