Farmers across Maharashtra say they are finding it difficult to offload their produce with the latest lockdown restrictions in Pune, Mumbai, Thane and Aurangabad. To stop the surge in Covid-19 cases, many municipal corporations and their neighbouring rural administrations have decided to impose a lockdown of 10-15 days. The first phase of the lockdown will be exceptionally strict, with only milk and medical shops allowed to operate – in contrast to previous lockdowns when supply of vegetables was allowed.
Even if wholesale markets were closed in earlier lockdowns, Farmer Producers Companies (FPC) had continued to supply curated baskets in urban markets.
This closure of urban markets affects tomato growers like Deepak Bhise, who has been enjoying better prices for the last one month. Bhise, who is from Yedgaon in Junnar taluka of Pune, said the uncertainty in transport and markets had forced farmers to reduce their vegetable and tomato acreage, which had caused prices to improve in the last fortnight. “However, as the nearby urban markets of Pune and Sangamner are closed, we have to depend on traders from Mumbai, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh to ensures prices do not crash,” he said.
At present, the Mumbai market being open has come as a relief, since supply of vegetables is allowed there.
At the wholesale market of Nashik, vegetable growers have started feeling the heat as urban markets remain out of bounds.
Jagdish Apshunde, director trader of Nashik’s wholesale market, said that the price of most vegetables is between Rs 10 and 15 per kg.
The daily increase in Covid-19 case in Nashik has also prompted local traders to avoid the market. “Pune’s market has suddenly closed so we are facing the problem of plenty,” he said. Apshunde and other traders said the lockdown should have exempted the supply of vegetables.
For vegetable growers in and around Pune, the closure of the weekly farmers markets comes at a time when crops were ready for harvest. Narendra Pawar, director of Swami Samarath Farmers Producer Company (FPC), said most farmers are dumping their produce on the fields. Pointing to the unruly crowds that thronged the markets last Sunday, ahead of the start of lockdown, Pawar said, “Social distancing norms were ignored as people jostled to get their shopping done. Instead of such closure, it would have made much more sense if decentralised markets were kept operational,” he said.
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