Impact of COVID-19: Farming activities were exempted from the nationwide lockdown to facilitate uninterrupted harvesting of rabi crops and sowing of kharif crops.
The Indian economy has taken a huge hit from the coronavirus pandemic and resultant lockdowns. The International Monetary Fund expects the global output to contract by 4.9 per cent in 2020 and India’s GDP to contract as much as 4.5 per cent. But the agriculture sector is the silver lining in the year 2020-21, said the monthly economic report for July published by the department of economic affairs. The monsoon this year is forecasted to be 102 per cent of long-period average. A normal monsoon augurs well for India, as a considerable part of the rural workforce in employed in the agricultural sector.
While most economic activity came to a standstill in April-May 2020 due to Covid 19-induced lockdown, farming activities were exempted from the nationwide lockdown to facilitate uninterrupted harvesting of rabi crops and sowing of kharif crops. This was a major enabling factor for the smooth flow of agricultural commodities throughout the lockdown period and across both, rural and urban areas, the report pointed out.
Timely and proactive exemptions from COVID-induced lockdowns to the sector facilitated uninterrupted harvesting of rabi crops and enhanced sowing of kharif crops. A record procurement of wheat enabled a flow of around Rs 75,000 crore to the farmers, which will boost private consumption in rural areas.
The government also unveiled a slew of measures aimed at reforming the agricultural sector and hand-holding the farming community. The Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion & Facilitation) Ordinance, 2020 allowed farmers the freedom to sell and traders to purchase outside the markets notified under various state agricultural produce market jurisdictions.
The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Ordinance, 2020. This Act secured the interests of farmers to engage in business with agri-business firms, processors, wholesalers, exporters or large retailers for farm services and sale of future farming produce.
And the Essential Commodities Act (ECA), 1955 Amendment Ordinance made agricultural markets more responsive to forces of demand and supply. It allowed for stocking of agricultural produce by both sellers and buyers, by removing stock limits on cereals, pulses, oilseeds, onions and potatoes. It encouraged investment in infrastructre and storage for improved inventory management of agricultural produce.