COVID-19: Challenges for Andhra, Telangana farmers continue despite procurement plans

Issues of non-procurement of a number of crops, logistics and others will test the plans in their initial stages

By Meenakshi Sushma
Published: Monday 13 April 2020

Farmers in both, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, still face challenges to procure farm produce in the face of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) lockdown.

For one, the government is still buying maize and rice at Minimum Support Price (MSP). But other crops like green, red gram and black gram, turmeric, sesame, Bengal gram and millets are not being procured currently.

“Farmers are also facing a lot of issues with fresh fruits and vegetables. For instance, the farmers currently have a huge stock of orange and mango,” GV Ramanjaneyulu, executive director, Centre for Sustainable Agriculture, Secunderabad, said.

But the government has also announced that if buyers are interested in buying crops that have MSP, they can contact the government directly and the trade will be facilitated by it at a village level.

“To do so, a market could be opened shortly. But currently, there are no takers,” he said.

There is also the challenge of logistics because there is no labour or gunny bags available.

Arrangement for other crops also needed to be made, Ramanjaneyulu said. For example, when red gram was harvested last month, the prices were very low. Hence, the farmers are still holding the stock they couldn't sell.

“According to this arrangement, the farmers need to submit land ownership documents, which could be a problem in the case of tenant farmers. These things need to be looked into,” he said.

Telangana and Andhra Pradesh decided to procure produce from farmers through a decentralised plan on April 11, 2020, amid the COVID-19 lockdown.

Around 700 decentralised procurement centres have been set up near farms across Andhra Pradesh, under its decentralised procurement plan. This is to enable farmers to travel shorter distances to sell their product.

These centres will procure five crops including maize, jowar, Bengal gram, red gram, and turmeric. 

“The Telangana government is similarly procuring grains but through the local women’s Self Help Groups (SHGs),” Ramanjaneyulu said.

“In both states, farmers have been given a coupon. The coupon contains a time slot and day when the farmer can take the produce to the collection centres,” Ramanjaneyulu added.

Both states were following the same plan, he said. The only difference was that in Andhra Pradesh, the collection was to be done by the state secretary and in Telangana by the SHGs.

Moreover, in Telangana, SHGs have been procuring rice and maize for quite a long time. “The set-up of state secretaries acting as collection centres in Andhra has started now only,” he added.

Farmers in both states had been finding it tougher to sell their produce because of the 21-day lockdown due to COVID-19.

They were left stranded as there was a sudden shut down of the nearby markets in both the states. Farm labourers were scared to come for work and many left for their native places, adding more pressure on farmers, according to media reports.

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