The global coronavirus outbreak placed an end to people’s day-to-day routines around the globe, and it’s been impacting individuals from all walks of life. People have lost lives, jobs, someone they loved, and the whole economy has been on a downward trend. Positive and negative have become interchangeable synonyms, and every minute we learn of another victim of the fatal infection. While the virus affected everyone in different ways, the business world has succumbed to it. Agriculture is one of those industries in the business world that hasn’t ceased developing despite being hammered hard from all sides, from farmers to consumers. The agricultural industry has had multiple ups and downs throughout this period that it never imagined. The economic situation is bleak. What impact would this have on the economy of a global superpower like India, where agriculture employs 140 million people in rural areas?
Impact of Covid-19 on the agriculture industry
Impact of COVID-19 on the Indian agricultural system
- It was the height of India’s Rabi season at the time of the lockdown, and crops like wheat, gram, lentil, mustard, and others were in the pick-and-pack stage. COVID-19 impacted several agricultural and supply chain activities due to an ongoing lockdown that coincided with the rabi harvesting season. Transportation problems, among other things, have caused supply chain disruptions.
- A significant disturbance in the supply of perishable fruits and vegetables, dairy items, fish, and other perishable foods that have mobilised to meet ever-increasing demands from both a developing middle class and urban and rural consumers caused irreversible harm to all partners in the supply chain.
According to early reports, a shortage of skilled labour resulted in certain harvesting efforts being disrupted, particularly in northern India, where wheat and pulses are gathered. Workers returning home to their villages in some areas also raised concern, as they are essential for harvest operations as well as post-harvest processing at storage and marketing centres.
- Wheat, vegetables, and other crops have seen lower prices, but consumers still paid more.
- Making available foodstuffs like grains, fruits and vegetables, and other staples to consumers, both in rural and urban areas became the greatest critical challenge faced by government machinery because of the lockdown period. The distribution of commodities to vulnerable populations under the watchful eye of established guidelines and protocols, especially those regarding social distancing, had to be effectively monitored.
- According to sources in the media, the lockdown reduced milk sales by closing hotels, cafes, confectionery shops, and tea shops. Meanwhile, misinformation about hens carrying COVID-19 wreaked havoc on poultry farmers, particularly on social media.
Challenges of the agriculture in COVID 19
- Agricultural productivity and earnings are impacted:
- Many countries, particularly those with periods of peak seasonal labour demand or labour-intensive industries, experienced labour shortages due to restrictions on people’s migration across borders and lockdowns.
- For many items that were about to enter harvest season, a labour shortage resulted in production losses and market shortages.
- Consumer demand shifts:
- The drop in out-of-home food consumption will have an especially big impact in wealthy countries. The closure of restaurants and foodservice providers in schools, hotels, and catering enterprises has reduced the market for various commodities, such as potatoes for French fries, seafood, and dairy goods, but some of those losses have been offset by rising demand from supermarkets.
- This dramatic shift in demand mix – and, in some cases, level – will put entire value chains under strain. Manufacturers are shifting from bulk commodities for food service to smaller packaging for home usage, for example, by altering manufacturing and distribution.
- The need to adjust and deliver food through various channels (for example, supermarkets or direct home delivery, rather than open markets or direct to restaurants and catering firms) may be especially difficult for smaller and specialised farmers, who are more likely to rely on open markets, restaurants, and catering, and who may struggle to find new outlets and purchasers.
- Food supply chain disruptions:
- Food supply networks are being disrupted as a result of measures taken to prevent or halt the spread of COVID-19.
- The effects on labour are particularly worrisome. The food industry will be vulnerable to the negative effects of COVID-19 on the workforce (workers becoming unwell or isolated), as well as increased production and distribution expenses as a result of health and safety precautions implemented to prevent worker exposure.
- Perishable food markets are more likely to be impacted than cereal and prepared food markets.
- The provision of important food safety, quality, and verification checks, including those essential to enable trade, such as physical inspections of commodities to certify compliance with sanitary and phytosanitary requirements, is also being hampered by lockdowns and restrictions on people’s mobility (SPS).
- Transport and logistics services are experiencing delays and interruptions as a result of COVID-19 containment measures.
The reaction of the Government of India
- What is the impact of COVID-19 Pandemic on agriculture? Farming includes multiple product lines that span from farmer to end-consumer. All were affected by the coronavirus outbreak, followed by lockdowns, with impacts on agricultural security, supply chains, food, and nutrition security, and livelihoods.
- Can I operate my farm as usual? Farms can be operated as usual but only after following corona preventive measures. The acquisition of agri inputs can look like a challenging process. But planning your crop stages and making a note of all products you need beforehand so that you don’t have to run later can be a savior practice.