Covid surge casts shadow over Karnataka’s agri activities | Bengaluru News – Times of India

BENGALURU: After a bumper yield last year, farmers in Karnataka fear the raging Covid crisis may seriously impact agriculture and allied activities in the new season, though they are exempted from the current lockdown.
Despite the outbreak of the pandemic last year, the state recorded an all-time high of 153 lakh metric tonnes of food output. But this time, the pandemic is fast spreading from cities to rural areas, which have a higher share of the elderly and at-risk farmers, and this could put a strain on local healthcare systems and farming activities.
A senior agriculture official said they are worried that if the current situation stretches, it will have an adverse impact on summer harvest and preparations for the kharif season, especially if infections start spreading among members of the farming community. “Still the situation is not that bad. We are hoping it will ease soon, but if the second wave prolongs beyond May, it could cause huge damage,” the official added.
Kurubur Shanthakumar, president of Karnataka State Sugarcane Growers’ Association, alleged police in districts have not been allowing farmers to move to their fields, instead, have been seizing their implements when they question them.
“How will farmers harvest their crop or go to mandis to sell it if they are not allowed to move around? This is a big question before every farmer now. We had been urging the government to issue green ID cards, considering the experience we had during last year’s lockdown, but the request has fallen on deaf ears,” he added.
“The government must intervene to save farmers from the current crisis as there is a 60-70 per cent decline in supply of fruits and vegetables,” claimed Shanthakumar.
The lockdown is also leading to possible labour crisis as hundreds of migrant workers have returned to their hometowns, leaving behind a big void. Growers of commercial crops like coffee, arecanut and pepper largely rely on migrants.
“We are going to face a shortage of labour next month. This is also because the government has restricted movement of people due to Covid-19. The state government has not made any attempt to retain them by setting up special camps,” said Vinith Gowda of Chikkamagaluru planters’ association. He asked the government to find some way to ensure farmers do not face any problem in harvesting and procurement of crops.
Agriculture minister BC Patil said there should be no restrictions on agriculture and allied activities. “It has come to my notice that some officials have seized agricultural implements. This should not happen. Farmers must be allowed to transport agricultural or horticultural produce to markets, travel to fertiliser shops or Raita Samparka Kendras and take up agricultural activities without any hindrance,” he said.

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Sagar Biswas

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