Centre, states must focus on containing Covid in rural sector ahead of Kharif sowing season


New Delhi, May 14: As Covid 19 pandemic hit Indias rural areas, the critical agriculture sector could be impacted. Reason? Sowing for the Kharif season typically starts from May-end but this year, due to the rising number of cases in the rural areas farming activities have started to get impacted.

Besides, India, which emerged as the largest producer and exporter of rice in the world in 2020, could suffer if sowing of basmati and non basmati rice is dented due to the pandemic.

“We are deeply concerned. Sowing of rice grains take place from May-end to June but this year, there is lurking fear and anxiety. Farmers’ congregations have added to the problem as many are getting infected and returning to their villages with the virus, spreading it further. This is matter of serious concern as this could impact sowing leading to a drop in production,” Vinod Kaul executive director, All India Rice Exporters’ Association told India Narrative.

In 2020, when the pandemic hit India for the first time, the rural areas remained unaffected, which was also reflected in the agriculture sector growth.

The main rice producing states in India are West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Punjab, Tamil Nadu among others.

Unfortunately, all these states are currently in the grip of a severe second wave.

“It is essential for the governments—Central as well as states—to take immediate steps to ensure that the spread of the virus is contained in the rural areas. This must be taken up on priority basis or else there would be risks pertaining to production of food,” an industry watcher said.

In 2020, India, with its increased production of rice, added new export markets. India even exported rice to China and Bangladesh besides several new markets in the price sensitive Africa.

India, which already supplies over 32 per cent of the global rice needs, witnessed an over 80 per cent increase in exports of rice – both basmati and non basmati in 2020-21. In fact, last year, India’s contribution in maintaining global food security had risen considerably.

Last year, production of rice had fallen in countries like Thailand and Vietnam due to the Covid 19 pandemic and floods.

Agriculture and its allied sectors continue to remain the largest source of livelihoods in India.

According to India Brand Equity Foundation (IBEF), the Indian food and grocery market is the world’s sixth largest, with retail contributing 70 per cent of the sales.

“Considering the huge implications, the agriculture sector has on lives and livelihoods, the Centre and states must collectively work towards ensuring protection of farmers. This is of paramount importance for India to remain an important player in the global food security chain,” the industry watcher, who did not wish to be identified said.

(This content is being carried under an arrangement with indianarrative.com)