Poor prices for rabi crops at markets bode ill for farmers
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Arrivals of wheat, mustard and other major rabi crops at markets during the first two weeks of April were more than 90% lower than during the corresponding period last year.
Fruit farmers have been hit the hardest with prices down 9%, despite 85% fall in arrivals.
The impact of the COVID-19 crisis on the rabi or winter season harvest has been brutal, despite government efforts to facilitate agricultural activities.
The CRISIL research showed that only one lakh tonnes of major rabi crops — wheat, gram, rapeseed and mustard — arrived in mandis between April 1 to 12, 98% less than the 51 lakh tonnes that arrived in mandis during the same period in 2019.
While there are four primary reasons for this — delayed rabi harvest, labour shortage, lack of transport, and reduced mandi operations — grains are also said to be hoarded by farmers/traders to be sold at a later date when mandi operations and logistics normalise.
The main wheat producing areas of Punjab and Haryana had not yet begun harvesting during this period. Mandi prices for these crops were about 29% higher than the previous year.
The arrivals of pulses and oilseeds were also 93% lower than the previous year, while prices were 28% higher.
The situation is slightly better with regard to winter paddy and coarse grains with a 68% drop in arrivals. However, prices are also down about 2%, due to a drop in demand for coarse grains.