COVID-19: India ’ s Harvests also Locked Down
Agricultural markets or mandis have few buyers due to the coronavirus lockdown across India. Credit: Neeta Lal/IPSBy Neeta LalNEW DELHI, Apr 24 2020 (IPS) Heartbreaking images of Indian farmers standing amidst swathes of rotting vegetables, fruits and grain have been flooding newspapers and TV screens lately. Crashing prices and transport bottlenecks due to the 40-day coronavirus lockdown in India, on till May 3, have driven some to set their unsold produce ablaze. As a nationwide lockdown has confined a record 1.3 billion Indians to their homes since Mar. 24, one of the hardest hit communities has been that of Indian farmers. Crops set ablaze and farmer suicides “We take our produce to the mandi (market) but there are hardly any buyers these days. I was forced to sell four quintals of chilli at Rs 10 per kg as against a normal price of Rs 40. But I was desperate to clinch the deal, else the transportation cost of bringing all that produce back would have broken my back,” Lekhi Ram, a smallholder farmer from Khairpur village of west Greater Noida, Uttar Pradesh, told IPS over the phone. Unable to harvest his crop in time, Ram’s neighbour, also a smallholder, set his fields on fire. Unexpected rain and hailstones last week decimated whatever little was left. “The leftover vegetables were fed to the sheep and goats,” said Ram. March and April mark the peak harvesting season in India when crops like wheat, chickpea, barley, flax ...
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