A drastic hit on rural agricultural sector due to lockdown for covid19

Atanu Sengupta & Asish Kumar Pal

With the growing number of coronavirus cases, the government has extended lockdown phase after phase. At this duration transport services, closed all public and private offices, factories and restricted mobilisation. According to MRD report there is a job loss of 40 million people in the country. There are several sectorial impacts such as Restaurant services, Food and agriculture, Micro small and medium (MSME) sector, Online business or Internet business sector. As per recent NSSO report, agriculture employed more than 50% of the Indian workforce and contributed 17- 18% to country’s GDP. So, agriculture sector is the most priority sector in Indian economy. In this scenario coronavirus lockdown will have a negative effect on the agricultural sector in rural areas of West Bengal.  At the season of ‘boro’ paddy harvesting time in rural West Bengal the farmers are indeed worried about their standing crops.  At this rural farmer may be faced some terrible problems despite the agricultural activities are out of lockdown. They have already complained about their crops damage due to lockdown and heavy rainfall recently.

To understand the negative impact of lockdown in agriculture sector in rural area some farmers are asked some questions which are divided under different conditions regarding cropped land, lack of labour, situation of crops, difficulties of harvesting in lockdown period, low market demand and storage problem etc. The data is collected from April to May. It is acknowledged that there are basically three types of farmers such as marginal, small and large exist in rural Bengal as well as India.

Labour crisis is the primary obstacle to harvest properly crops of ‘boro paddy season'. Large farmers are suffering heavily from this crisis. Because the labourers are moving back to their native villages. Besides, the big farmers basically hire the heavy machinery for collecting the crops. Such types of machinery are brought from other states like Punjab, Haryana and Utter Pradesh. Small farmers are also suffering although most of them depend on local labourers. As the marginal famers cultivate by themselves in own cropped area, they do not so much problem like big and small farmers yet they are afraid to coronavirus that can attract at the time of agricultural activities in the field.  Secondly, as the lockdown suddenly announced by Prime minister is going on from the midnight of March 24, 2020, the small and marginal farmers are suffering from the shortage of capital. This leads to unable for proper maintaining the cropped land by appropriate water, fertiliser as well as pesticides. This is because of loading the work in lockdown time. Big farmers also use fertilizer and irrigation due to crisis of labour.  So 83% of the respondent famers are afraid from damage or low production.  considering the closing of markets, The lockdown has disrupted supply chains for most crops because   in our state some markets have remain closed. Many rice mills are closed due to deficiency of labour supply. So, the farmers specially 74% of large farmers will face to supply their crops properly to rice mill owners. The marginal and small farmers (85%) of respondents sell their crops ‘fore' or intermediaries. So, they also think their crops will remain in unsold situation due to county wide lockdown for covid -19 pandemic. Despite the permission both by central as well as state to start crops related transports in agriculture activities yet 'boro’ production in rural economy will be indirectly affected by the problem of transportation. Most of the sample farmers fear to supply adequately in market by the absence of track drivers who do not work due to spread of coronavirus disease. After this of we look to the economic loose of the farmers. They will face to huge monetary loss die to adequate harvesting of paddy. It is acknowledged that most of the large farmers depend on agricultural income in the developing countries. our survey shows that each category of farmers will suffer from this. 87% of the respondents big farmers will afraid of loss.  Similarly, 80% of small farmers are expected same. It is astonished that 95% of marginal farmers who are directly linked with agricultural activities, afraid of huge amount of loss. If they cannot earn an adequate amount of money, they will face the misery condition as they have declared about no other sources of income at the time of interview. They are worried about to pay the loan that is taken by rural 'landlord' and ‘mohajon’ who are engaged as money lender in rural India. Although the big farmers have taken loan from cooperative and regional rural bank, are also indeed worried about repay the loan.  Perhaps they may be in trap of debt. They will face on distress sell. As a result, one type of black marketer, speculators will be appeared in rural economy.  They will take advantage of crisis. So, man – made food crisis will be shown in rural area throughout the country.

 There are dual problems of rural economy including supply side as well as demand side. Due to various difficulties the farmers will face low production. The Indian economy will face food crisis. From the other side being jobless condition, the people will have no purchasing power for demand that leads to depression in the economy. As a result of this the Indian economy will suffer to jeopardise the economic well being of the society.

Ministry of Agriculture report (April,2020).
MRD report (Updated)
NSSO report, 2020

Dr. Atanu Sengupta, Professor, Economics Department, Burdwan University,  West Bengal, India
Dr. Asish Kumar Pal, Assistant Professor, Economics Department,  Tarakeswar Degree College, Tarakeswar, Hooghly, West Bengal, India

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Jun 10, 2020

Dr. Atanu Sengupta

Dr. Asish Kumar Pal

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