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Good Rabi yield, but labour shortage haunts farmers

Farmers, experts are worried about harvest and procurement process

Published: 27th April 2020 08:39 AM  |   Last Updated: 27th April 2020 08:39 AM   |  A+A-

Farmers sort wheat crops after harvesting during the nationwide lockdown at Kanachak village in Jammu | Pti

Express News Service

NEW DELHI: Rajbir Singh, a farmer on the outskirts of Ghaziabad, has a 0.74-acre wheat field, but has no one to harvest the crop. What’s more alarming for him is that there is no person to transport it for procurement process amid the ongoing national lockdown.

“The crop is ready and its procurement time has already begun, but all the labourers on my farm have returned to their villages and so have the transport people. If the crisis doesn’t end soon, the crop will go waste,” he said.

This is the story of many such farmers across the country. Despite a decent production of Rabi crops — almost same or a little more than the previous year — harvesting and procurement concerns haunt them.
For instance, last year, a total of 99.87 million tonnes of wheat was produced, while this year, the production went up to 102.19 million tonnes.

Another major Rabi crop – mustard and rapeseed – also saw an increase in production. While 84.3 million tonnes were produced last year, the production has increased to 93.3 million tonnes. Farmers, experts, associations for migrant workers and transport associations are worried alike for the harvest and procurement.

Experts said the government must plan the harvest and procurement of Rabi crops like they are planning in advance for the Kharif season.Anand, a senior official of the Institute of Rural Management, said it was already too late for the planning.

“Plans should have been made for Rabi first and then for Kharif. Tonnes and tonnes of Rabi crops are awaiting harvest. If the situation does not improve, the government will not have any crops to procure,” he said.

Migrant workers are also equally concerned. “I have been working in the fields of Punjab for around seven years. This time, I was forced to leave Punjab and go to my hometown in Meerut. My employer will lose his crop and I will lose my earnings as I have been for the past two months. We need special buses or transport to ensure productivity resumes,” a migrant worker staying at a shelter home in Anand Vihar said.
The Centre, in its fresh guidelines for the extended lockdown, while giving relief to the agriculture sector has refused to dilute transport restriction, thus, rendering thousands of migrant workers helpless and stranded.

A former agriculture secretary reminded how he had warned of the crisis. “I had earlier said that Rabi planning was the need of the hour. Also, I had suggested that a special transport be arranged for migrant workers to undertake agriculture labour work. Both suggestions were not heeded to and the results are there in front of everyone,” he said.

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