Coronavirus lockdown | Farmers in Punjab, Haryana worried over wheat harvesting

Steps for procurement will be in place before the marketing season starts, say both governments

March 25, 2020 08:06 pm | Updated December 03, 2021 06:42 am IST - CHANDIGARH

Representational image only.

Representational image only.

With harvesting of wheat crop about to commence in the next few days in the key grain growing States of Punjab and Haryana, farmers are a worried lot fearing loss due to delay in harvesting and procurement of amid the ongoing lockdown, due to coronavirus ( COVID-19 ) outbreak.

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The State governments, however, have said the farmers need not worry as arrangements for smooth operations of harvesting and procurement will be in place before the marketing season starts.

“My crop will be ready for harvesting in next 9-10 days, if the weather is clear. But I am nervous about how I will harvest it. If the lockdown continues, I don't know how anyone can employ combine harvesters or even manual labour in the field? Also, so far there has been no notification from the government about the procurement dates,” said Sarvan Singh of Pandher Kalan village in Amritsar, who has sown wheat in five acres.

Mr. Sarvan said farmers are willing to follow all precautions and regulations to curb the novel coronavirus but the government should also immediately address the fears.

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“I can’t afford to lose my crop. Even if there’s a lockdown, I’ll go to harvest my crop and I am ready to face consequences,” he said.

Wheat — the main rabi (winter) crop which is sown between late October till December — is now nearing the ripening stage and harvesting of early sown varieties usually commences by the end of March. However, due to recent rains and inclement weather, the harvesting is likely to be delayed by 7-10 days. The wheat procurement season officially begins on April 1 in Punjab and Haryana.

Gurmeet Singh of Bhattiwal Khurd village in Sangrur told The Hindu that harvesting is mostly done by combine harvester, and if the curfew is continued then it will bring hardship for every farmer.

“The government needs to immediately come out with a plan otherwise it would be a chaotic situation when the harvesting starts,” said Mr. Gurmeet, who has sown wheat in nearly 17 acres.

In Haryana’s Shahbad, Rakesh Bains, who has sown wheat in his seven acres, said if the government procurement is delayed it will add to the farmers’ woes. “First, there’s no clarity on any mechanism or guidelines being adopted by the government for harvesting the crop. Secondly, if mandis [yards] are not open, where will farmers store the produce. It’s not easy for farmers like me to store the grain.”

“The government should issue guidelines and remove ambiguity over opening of mandis,” he said.

P. S. Rangi, an agriculture expert and former Punjab State Farmers Commission adviser, said he was hopeful that the two governments would soon come out with some mechanism to deal with the situation. “If harvesting is delayed, storage of grain will be the greatest challenge for farmers. Relaxation will be required for harvesting. Also there could a problem of shortage of labour as many have returned to their native places,” he said.

Punjab Agriculture Secretary Kahan Singh Pannu said farmers need not worry as the State government will allow harvesting and procurement will be done in an efficient manner. “We are on it and we will procure each and every grain from the market. Notification about the procurement season start date will also be issued soon,” said Mr. Pannu.

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