India has successfully taken preemptive actions to limit the spread of COVID-19, enforcing a 21-day nationwide lockdown for its population of 1.3 billion which began March 25. Despite this, the virus has spread widely in comparison to other countries, and as cases are increasing the COVID-19 effects on agriculture are becoming more noticeable.
The economic shock will most probably be a bit more severe for India, for two main reasons: First, before COVID-19, the economy was already slowing down, and was facing several challenges mainly low incomes, unemployment, rural distress, widespread inequality, and malnutrition. Second, India has a particularly vulnerable and large informal sector. 422 million out of 465 million workers (around 91%) were informal workers in 2017-2018. The aforementioned group lacks salaries or regular income, and this group will be affected the most during the lockdown period
COVID-19 is disrupting activities in agriculture and supply chains. Reports also indicate that the non-availability of migrant workers and transportation delays are interrupting the process. Media reports indicate that the closure of restaurants, hotels, sweet shops, and tea shops has caused milk sales to go down. Poultry farming businesses have been severely impacted by the misinformation circulating on social media that says chickens are carriers of COVID-19.
Here are some measures required to keep the agricultural sector and supply chains working smoothly:
Government has properly issued lockdown guidelines that exempt farm operations and supply chains. However implementation problems that lead to labor shortages and falling prices must be rectified.
- Maintaining supply chain functionality is imperative to food security.
- Farming populations should be protected from coronavirus to the most extent possible via constant testing and by practicing social distancing
- Farmers need to have continued access to market, whether private markets or government procurement
- Agricultural workers and farmers should be included in the governments assistance package
- Trend for home delivery of groceries and E-commerce must be encouraged and promoted
- Government should promote trade by avoiding export bans and import restrictions