Coronavirus India: FICCI suggests ways to bail out agriculture and allied sectors

Tuesday, 14 April 2020

It's a sector that encompasses over 50 per cent of India's workforce and contributes to almost a fifth of the country's GDP.

PUNE: Amid the nationwide lockdown due to the novel coronavirus, agriculture activities have been disrupted, and to tide over it, FICCI (Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry) has given 14 recommendations for the agriculture and allied activities. 

It's a sector that encompasses over 50 per cent of India's workforce and contributes to almost a fifth of the country's GDP. The smooth functioning of this industry is extremely critical, especially during these testing times. With the nationwide lockdown extended till May 3rd, assurance of adequate food supply is essential to keep the nation pumping. 

Among the measures suggested by FICCI are the effective procurement of rabi crops and approaching the sowing for the kharif season. In its list of recommendation, FICCI recommended the smooth operation of the market with appropriate protection and hygiene measures so that the supply chain of food is not disrupted. There should be more procurement centres in the states wherever arrivals are expected so that farmers need not travel a long distance.

FICCI further suggested that APMC regulations should be relaxed which prohibit sale and purchase outside market jurisdiction. Therefore, farmers should be allowed to sell perishable items outside the regulated markets.

The recommendation further suggested that transport should be facilitated as the government must ensure that the police should help farmers who are bringing their produce to vegetable markets or the places where it can be sold. Fumigation and Pest Management should be part of essential service, and they help in keeping agri-commodities infestation free.

FICCI also advised that the supply of seeds and other agri-inputs to be maintained for the coming kharif season. Seed companies whose seed licence has just expired or about to expire are unable to renew their licences due to the lockdown.

Therefore, FICCI has requested that all seed licences which are to expire in March 2020 or later, be automatically extended. This will facilitate the unhindered supply of seeds for this Kharif season.

In the context of the forthcoming kharif crop, farmers will require the deployment and maintenance of irrigation systems. Therefore, FICCI has recommended that the Centre should give clear guidelines and consider it as a part of essential services. Loans taken on Kisan Credit Card (KCC) as well as investment loans taken by small farmers may be rescheduled, and no interest should be charged for six months.

The poultry industry is the worst affected due to the outbreak of COVID-19 as the consumption of meat, chicken, eggs and seafood has diminished. This has not only incurred losses for the poultry industry, but prices of maize and soybean have also reduced as it is majorly used in the feed. Therefore, FICCI has recommended strict intervention and relief measures from the government for the sector.

India is the second-largest producer of shrimps, and since it is highly perishable, the FICCI has suggested that the stock must be harvested daily and sold in the domestic market for the next 30-45-60 days as exports have stopped. Therefore, such farmers should be linked to buyers through an e-commerce model.

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