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COVID-19 hits farms: Lockdown dampens selling price but stokes inflation in MP


Farmers in villages cannot reach city markets to sell their produce; Vegetable prices are skyrocketing in cities due to short supply


Farmer Hariom Meena had to throw away his tomatoes on the road because he could not sell them at Bhopal Mandi. Photo: Rakesh Kumar Malviya

The second wave of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) and the ensuing lockdown had made it difficult for small farmers to sell their produce. The short supply has led to sudden inflation in cities, causing a double whammy for the people of Madhya Pradesh.

Hariom Meena is a farmer from Bhaironpur village, 13 kilometres from Bhopal. He cultivated tomato, cucumber and chilly peppers recently. But despite a good harvest, he can’t sell it. Mandis, or wholsesale markets, in Bhopal are shut due to the lockdown.

Meena cannot reach the Mandis to sell his produce. At the same time, vegetable prices in Bhopal are skyrocketing due to the short supply.

Shyam Singh Kushwah from Golkhedi village says he has not been able to recover his costs. Due to the lockdown, farmers are not allowed to enter cities. When they try to enter, they are stopped at the outskirts by the police. 

Kushwah says the lockdown should be relaxed, allowing farmers to enter the city and the Mandis. This will allow farmers like him to sell his produce and people in the city won’t have to buy vegetables at higher prices.

Bhopal Mandi and nearby retail markets are closed. Earlier, farmers from neighbouring villages, with their produce in tractors, used to sell it in small retail markets of the city. This time, even that is not possible.

Last year, Meena incurred a loss of Rs 1,20,000, due to the lockdown. Somehow, he cultivated vegetables this year. But he is again incurring a loss. 

The story is similar for farmers in Hardha, the home district of MP’s agriculture minister Kamal Patel. Farmers here have cultivated various vegetable crops but are incurring huge losses due to the lockdown.

Avdesh says farmers were getting a good price for their produce in January. However, since then, the prices have been falling.

In April, farmers had to bear a huge loss due to the lockdown. “Every year, we go through this problem. Prices fall sharply during this particular season. But this year, it was even tougher to recover the cost incurred,” he said.

Avdesh wants the government to give direct relief to farmers by deciding the minimum support price for vegetable crops as well.

Kisan Rail scheme

 

In August 2020, the Centre started the refrigerated Kisan Rail facility. The idea was to enable farmers to sell their produce beyond local markets through this scheme.

This would fetch them a good price for the product. The scheme did not benefit the small farmers of MP, as it required a large quantity of produce.

Hemant Chore, a farmer from Pathroda village, Itarsi, harvested tomato and sponge gourd among other vegetables on his half-acre field. He is worried about he won’t be able to sell if the lockdown isn’t lifted soon.

Chore says it was difficult to get any work because of the lockdown. He, along with his family, harvested vegetables. Now, even selling them has become difficult.

Roop Singh Rajput from Rohana village, Hoshangabad does organic farming. Due to the closing of the weekly retail market, he is facing problems in selling his produce. He is now delivering vegetable at doorsteps, by connecting with the buyers on the messaging application, WhatsApp.

Raja Khan, a wholesaler in Bhopal, says he is facing difficulty in procuring vegetables. Police have increased restrictions, especially after May 21. This has led to a sudden increase in prices.






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