Rural surge of pandemic affects agriculture

Though the authorities have played down the negative fallout of the pandemic on agriculture, emerging trends indicate that the long-term impact will be felt in due course.   | Photo Credit: SRIRAM MA

The rural surge of the pandemic unfolding in south Karnataka region, as anywhere else in the State, is beginning to impact agricultural activities.

Though officials in the Agricultural Department attribute the decrease in activity to inadequate pre-monsoon showers, farmers aver that the situation in rural areas was such that labour was difficult to come by to kickstart land preparation for sowing or even take up harvesting of summer crops.

Kurubur Shanthakumar, President, Karnataka Sugarcane Cultivators Association, said that people in the villages are reluctant to hire workers from outside due to the widespread prevalence of COVID-19.

The Joint Director of Agriculture in Mysuru, Mahanteshappa, said the rural surge of COVID-19 could affect agricultural activities in the days ahead though sowing per se was not labour intensive.

But apart from sowing there are other agricultural activities including harvesting the summer crops which are likely to be affected in the absence of labour. Srinivasmurthy, a rice conservator and progressive farmer from T. Narsipur, said it was a common practice to hire workers from adjoining villages for farm work.

“But now workers are increasingly reluctant to move out of their villages in search of employment. What is equally true is that local residents in villages are objecting to presence of workers from other places due to the fear of the pandemic,’’ he added.

A vast swathe of land under paddy cultivated in early summer is ready for harvesting and many farmers are keen to hire paddy harvesting machines to tide over labour crisis arising out of the pandemic, said Mr. Srinivasmurthy.

A section of the officials argued that there were similar fear even last year that agriculture would take a hit because of the COVID-19 outbreak but instead what was witnessed was record sowing and harvest.

However, Mr. Shanthakumar pointed out that the first wave left the rural hinterland unscathed last year but the situation was different in the present times.

People in villages are hiding illness to avoid testing and isolation and there are scores who have tested positive but are forced to remain in villages as there are no beds in hospital which is worsening the situation, said Mr. Shanthakumar.

Though authorities have played down the negative fallout of the pandemic on agricultural activity, emerging trends indicate that the long-term impact of the pandemic will be felt in due course.

In Mysuru district there were 16,026 active COVID-19 cases as on Thursday of which 10,104 are in the city. The rest are spread across the taluks.

In Mandya district, which is predominantly agrarian in character, there are 8,240 active cases as on Thursday. This includes 1,159 in Malavalli tauk, 1245 in Maddur taluk, 718 in Pandavapura, 760 in Srirangapatna, 583 in K.R.Pet, and 835 in Nagamangala. Mandya taluk alone has 2,852 active cases underlining the seriousness of the crisis. In Chamarajanagar district, there are 4,512 active cases, mainly in the rural hinterland.

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Printable version | Jun 22, 2021 8:44:09 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/karnataka/rural-surge-of-pandemic-affects-agriculture/article34559031.ece

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