With no one to take them to mandis, most farm commodities fall below MSP

Labourers carry sacks of rice at a government godown during the nationwide lockdown imposed in the wake of coronavirus pandemic
Prices of most agricultural commodities have slipped below their minimum support price (MSP) because of lockdown-triggered labour and logistic problems, which created supply pressure on mandis near major production centres, even as remote agricultural produce market committees (APMCs) remain deserted.

While black gram (urad beans) at Karnataka’s Sedan mandi is selling at Rs  4,200 a quintal — at a 26 per cent discount to its MSP of Rs 5,700 a quintal — pearl millet and wheat in Etawah (Uttar Pradesh) and Saja (Chhattisgarh) are selling at a discount of 22 per cent and 30 per cent, respectively, to the MSPs.
All farm commodities, including paddy, oilseed and horticultural products, have recorded a sharp decline in their prices over the last two weeks following disruptions in farm-to-mandi-to-consumer transportation following the 21-day nationwide lockdown. “Farmers are currently unable to sell their produce because of disruptions in logistics services and labour shortage. Hence, they are selling their commodities in distress in nearby mandis, resulting in their prices fall below the MSP,” said Madan Sabnavis, chief economist, Care Ratings.

While the government has relaxed logistics norms and allowed inter-state movement of trucks with some riders, transportation of agricultural commodities remained restricted. This restriction, on the other hand, has resulted in a jump in consumer prices.

 

 
Meanwhile, the matured wheat crop in hundreds of hectares in Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh is waiting to get harvested. Similarly, horticultural crops — onion and seasonal fruits, including grapes, pineapple and mango, remain unharvested in Maharashtra, Gujarat, and Madhya Pradesh. Farmers are struggling to harvest green and leafy vegetables in Maharashtra, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Punjab, and Gujarat.

“Harvesting of the matured agricultural crop cannot wait. Hence, unharvested crop, either because of labour shortage or logistics issue, is a clear wastage of farm produce. And based on their experience from these hardships, farmers would take a decision whether to sow the same crop or switch to some other remunerative crop next season,” said Vijay Sardana, a renowned expert in agricultural commodities.

The nationwide lockdown to prevent the spread of coronavirus has sent the agricultural and horticulture sector into a tizzy. Migrant workers, mostly from Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, and West Bengal, had started returning home after the restriction was imposed, resulting in a huge shortage of workforce.

Sabnavis says problems in the supply of farm commodities will remain until the Covid-19 situation eases. 



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