Preliminary findings of a survey of more than 1,000 agricultural households across 12 Indian states show that 60% of those who did harvest reported a yield loss, and 1/10th of them could not harvest their crop in the past month. More than half (56%) of the farmers said that the lockdown has impacted their ability to prepare for the upcoming sowing season. The survey has found a “very strong association between food insecurity & farm size, with landless farmers 10 times more likely to skip a meal in the past month compared to large farmers”.
Half of them reported that they were “concerned about being able to afford inputs, particularly seeds and fertilizer,” and more than one-third (38%) were concerned about labour shortages. About one-fourth said they were “storing their crops instead of selling them due to the lockdown”. The study has found small/marginal farmers were significantly less likely to be able to sell their crops as compared to large farmers.
The Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI), Harvard T H Chan School of Public Health and the Centre for Sustainable Agriculture (CSA, Hyderabad), recently completed the telephone survey, covering 1,429 agricultural households in 200 districts. It was conducted between May 3 and May 15, and the same households will be surveyed one month and then two months from now.
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Dr Lindsay Jaacks, Assistant Professor at the Harvard T H Chan School of Public Health who is part of the study team, said the preliminary findings were “worrying” but there was “a shimmer of hope in all of this, and that is the many people who have mobilized to support informed policy outcomes that can benefit farmers and farm-workers. With the planting season coming up in a month, time is of the essence”.
Dr Jaacks added: “Academic research is often slow to implement and slow to reach the hands of policymakers and NGOs who can use it to improve the lives of those we seek to help in the first place. The COVID-19 pandemic has proven the remarkable ability of committed individuals working together on teams, even remotely, even across many time zones, to achieve shared goals. Here’s hoping this is one aspect of the COVID-19 response that sticks around.”
● 10% of farmers could not harvest their crop in the past month and 60% of those who did harvest reported a yield loss. Many reported that this was because of lockdown-related issues such as low market price or inability to access their land due to travel restrictions. Several farmers also reported severe weather and water scarcity/lack of irrigation, which are persistent challenges in the agricultural sector and will need to be addressed as the slower-burning climate crisis continues in the midst of the pandemic.
● 1 in 4 farmers reported storing their crops instead of selling them due to the lockdown and 12% of farmers were still trying to sell their crops. Small/marginal farmers were significantly less likely to be able to sell their crops as compared to large farmers.
● 56% of farmers reported that the lockdown has impacted their ability to prepare for the upcoming sowing season. In particular, 50% of these said that they were concerned about being able to afford inputs, particularly seeds and fertiliser, and 38% were concerned about labor shortages.
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