Chennai, March 26 : The 21-day nationwide lockdown to combat COVID-19 will have its impact on those cultivating vegetables, fruits, tea, paddy, flowers, inland fisheries and livestock, farmers in Tamil Nadu said.
"The lock down is impacting various farm operations ranging from cultivation to marketing. The summer cultivation of paddy has been affected for want of labour while harvested perishables like fruits, vegetables and fish in ponds can't be taken to the market for want of transportation in the state," P.R. Pandian, President, Tamil Nadu Federation of All Farmers' Association, told IANS.
He said the major impact will be on farmers of fruits and vegetables and floriculturists, as these are highly perishable items which are not getting the required prices. "These are getting sold at half the rate,'' he added.
According to Pandian, about 15 lakh acres of land in the state under paddy cultivation during the summer are facing losses as they are not able to find labour for various operations.
He said farmers cultivating watermelons across the state are staring at losses as they are not able to harvest and market their produce due to the 21-day lockdown that is in place to prevent the spread of the coronanirus outbreak that has infected over 600 people across the country.
Similarly, groundnuts cultivated in about 8 lakh acres are not being harvested for want of labour in several districts in the state.
The farmers to whom IANS spoke were unanimous in their views that the government has not considered the ground-level situation of such farms before announcing the 21-day lockdown.
Unlike sugarcane crop where harvest can be postponed, fruits, vegetables and tea leaves have to be harvested and sold on time, failing which they would rot.
"Adequate cold storage facilities are not present so that the farmers can store their produce for some days. I have a fish farm but there is no market for now," Pandian said.
"The area under summer paddy cultivation will be about 2 lakh acres in the Cauvery Delta region. Nurseries have been raised and transplantation should happen during the first week of April. Plantation and horticulture will be affected due to the lock down," S. Ranganathan, President, Cauvery Delta Farmers' Welfare Association, told IANS.
The farmers told IANS that sales of vegetables and fruits have been affected in a major way as there is no market within Tamil Nadu or in the neighbouring states like Kerala, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh.
Pandian said each farmer's family should be paid a sum of Rs 10,000 for one month's sustenance.
From the picturesque Theni district, A. Thiruppathi Vasagan, a farmer, told IANS over phone "It is summer and watermelon consumption would normally be high. But owing to the lockdown and absence of transports, the farmers here are facing a grim situation."
According to Vasagan, about 15,000 acres of land will be under vegetable farming in Theni district. He also added
that banana farmers will be affected in a big way.
"Banana has to be cut and sent to the market on time failing which it would rot, which in turn is also a health risk. Theni is also known for grape farming and the lockdown will also impact this," Vasagan said.
According to him, the farm labourers have been advised to work maintaining a distance of about 1.5 metres between them.
In the Nilgiris district, the tea and vegetable sectors are badly affected apart from the tourism sector.
"The tea factories have been ordered to shut down. The factories in turn have asked us to stop plucking of tea leaves. Once the leaves are plucked, it has to be sent to the factories for processing," Manjai V Mohan, President, Federation of Tea Crop Cultivators' Association, told IANS over phone from Nilgiris.
According to him, this is going to hit the business in a big way as about 50,000 tonnes of tea are bought by tourists to Ooty every year during the summer season.
He said the tea factories are largely automated and the plucking of leaves could have been allowed maintaining sufficient distance between the workers.
Apart from tea, the Nilgiris district also cultivates vegetables and flowers.
"Owing to the lockdown and absence of labour, vegetables are not being harvested. Further, Bengaluru is the major market for the flowers and in the absence of transportation, flowers are not being sent there resulting in losses for the growers," Mohan added.
According to Pandian, the Central government should pay the farmers Rs 6,000 in one instalment, rather than in three instalments as announced earlier and also write-off farm loans.
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