Covid-19 impact: State border curbs disrupt farm, food supply chain

A view of BPL cardholders at a government ration shop at Sunkadakatte in Bengaluru on Monday. Consumers throng the PDS shop to buy supplies as the Karnataka government proposes to implement strict lockdown for the next nine days to arrest the spread of Covid-19 

The clampdown imposed by the Government in controlling the spread of the dreaded Covid-19 has thrown the agri-supply chain in a state of disarray. The agri-markets have started downing their shutters for trading activities and are expected to stay closed till the end of this month.

This has impacted the spot trading of foodgrains and other agri-commodities in these markets, where arrivals have thinned down with farmers hesitant to visit the market.

In Gujarat, most of the APMCs are closed till April 2 and the arrivals of seasonal commodities such as wheat, chana, coriander and mustard have come to a halt. “We normally have a shutdown at APMCs from March 25 for our annual account closing, but this year we have closed early from March 21 due to the virus threat. Arrivals are suspended till April 2 and there will be no auctions for any commodity,” said Atul Kamani, President of APMC Commission Agents Association, in Rajkot.

The Vashi APMC market, in the larger safety of traders and commission agents, will remain shut till March 31. “We held a meeting today, wherein it was decided that the market will remain closed till March 31. This is because there is a threat of community transmission of the virus. We are keeping the vegetables market open for a day on Tuesday, after that it will also remain closed,” said Ashok Valunj, former Director, Vashi APMC. However, Valunj clarified that there are no restrictions on the farmers to sell their crops directly to the buyers.

Logistics hurdles

Fruits and vegetables (F&V) have been exempted from the lockdown in many States. However, the prevailing confusion and chaos in the logistics sector is seen impacting the movement of the produce, which, in turn, could shrink supplies to the consuming centres, resulting in a spike in prices in the days ahead.

“Though F&V is exempted, the ground reality is different. Harvesting, packing and transporting has become a big problem due to the clamp down on people movement,” said Pankaj Khandelwal of INI Farms.

“Even if the produce is harvested and shipped, there is uncertainty over the consignment reaching the intended destination. We hear from transporters that drivers — under pressure from their families and due to the conditions on the ground such as non-availability of food and frequent checks and long queues at State borders — have abandoned their vehicles. As a result, we are telling farmers to delay their harvest as much as possible,” Khandelwal said.

Further, the Government needs to come out with a solution to ensure a smooth passage for F&V vehicles by communicating with people on the ground about the exempted category, he added. In Delhi, the Azadpur Mandi was open today. “It will work tomorrow also. But I can’t say for how long. Like most people, traders and labourers, too, are very worried as the threat of Covid-19 infection is very real,” said Rajinder Sharma, a trader said.

“If Delhi government wants it to be functioning, it should make provisions for sanitising the place and even declare if anything happens to anyone it will compensate the person’s family. Such things can instil some confidence as workers are quite scared,” Sharma said.

In Bengaluru, the markets will remain open on Tuesday on account of the Ugadi festival and will be shut from Wednesday till the month end. “Retailers and grocers have stocked enough to take care of supplies for the next couple of weeks,” said RC Lahoti of Foodgrains Traders Association.

Source: The Hindu business line

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