HARYANA FARMERS will rely on farm machines to harvest their wheat crop this year amid a severe shortage of labour triggered by the coronavirus lockdown. Wheat harvesting has begun in the state and is likely to be completed by the end of this month.
In light of the challenge before the farmers, the government has stepped in, collecting details of combine harvesters — machines designed to harvest a variety of crops. “We have come to know about the availability of 4,900 harvesting machines in the state. We hope 2,500 more such machines will arrive from Punjab,” Haryana Additional Chief Secretary Sanjeev Kaushal told The Indian Express.
“We have only a few migrant labourers who had reached our village before the lockdown was announced. Hence, manual harvesting can’t be undertaken for a significant area,” said Ramesh Kumar, a farmer from Gorakhpur village of Fatehabad district.
“A few labourers from the village have offered to reap the wheat crop at the rate of two quintal food grain per acre. But these labourers won’t take part in threshing process. This will add to the cost. The labourers from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh who have specialisation in this process are not here. I will get my crop harvesting through machines,” he added.
Not only this, according to Kumar, labourers from Punjab who have specialisation in temporary storage of fodder have also not reached here. Manual harvesting of wheat is undertaken to produce fodder for animals.
Owner of a combine harvester, Paras Yadav, said that this time about 10 per cent of wheat fields will be harvested manually as against about 25 per cent in previous years. Wheat has been sown in 23.87 lakh hectare area this year. As per latest estimates of the agriculture department, the likely production would be around 115.55 lakh metric tonnes (MT), of which about 95 lakh MT will be procured by the government agencies on minimum support price (MSP) .
“All harvesting machines, which were taken to Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Maharashtra have not returned to the state yet because of the lockdown. The pandemic may discourage owners of combine harvesters from moving to Haryana from Punjab too. In this scenario, completion of the wheat harvesting might get delayed by a week,” he added.
However, Deputy Director of the Agriculture and Farmers Welfare Department Rajesh Sihag is confident that farmers won’t face any issues in harvesting their crop as “there are sufficient combine harvesters”. “We have already identified 871 combine harvesters at the local level for 1.88 lakh hectare wheat crop in Fatehabad district. Some machines will return from Madhya Pradesh apart from the arrival of similar machines from Punjab too. The farmers will also able to book harvesting machines online from Custom Hiring Centres (CHCs) where such machines will be available for hiring purposes,” he added.
Meanwhile, the state government is looking at around 10,000 migrant labourers who are staying in shelter homes across the state to help farmers during the harvesting season. Deputy Chief Minister Dushyant Chautala said, “The government has made arrangements of 4,500 combines and around 16,000 labourers, who were in shelter homes, have been returning to work. Government has also ordered to issue special passes to farmers for any kind of repair of agriculture equipment.”
Chautala added, “The government needs manpower of 10,000 employees and we have been thinking of taking help from employees of other departments. Farmers don’t need to fear about harvesting and procurement. Each grain of their produce will be procured.”
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