Covid-19 DEFDialogue, is a special series initiated by Digital Empowerment Foundation on Covid-19 where we connect with key individuals within our network in 600 locations across 25 states to find out how Covid-19 and the lockdown situation has impacted their area and the measures they are undertaking to tackle it. We will also be interacting with industry experts to gauge the situation and measures that can be undertaken.
Osama Manzar, Founder and Director, Digital Empowerment Foundation, spoke with—Gurav Vats, head of ICT and innovations at Indian Society of Agribusiness Professionals. They talk about the network of Indian Society of Agri-business Professionals (ISAP) and Farmer Produce Organizations (FPO) amongst farmers and how Gaurav and his team is working in a situation such as the COVID pandemic, when the country is in a complete lock down.
“ISAP is a large network of agriculture and allied sector of professionals in India and acts as a bridge between Indian rural communities and other government corporate entities.
Due to COVID-19 pandemic the whole world is facing consequences. The farmers and the migrant labourers are the ones who are largely affected. The supply-chain of the farmer’s produce both in inter and intra-state is pretty much disrupted.
I and my team have constantly been putting efforts to talk to the state authorities to get passes for the mobility of the vehicles. Luckily, the government has allowed around 80 FPOs to supply farmer’s produce to the end consumers.
The state agencies have been very helpful. In Karnataka the government has allowed the supply of fruits and vegetables to the end consumers. The FPO members have been assigned areas within the states and with the help of district collectors and marketing committees they have fixed reasonable prices for the commodities.
This has helped them opt for fair practices and there is no hoarding of goods. Similarly, in Maharashtra, they are able to offer vegetable baskets through 7 to 8 outlets to the consumers for Rs 600.
In Karnataka, ISAP has promoted around 50 such organizations and in Haryana 11 to 12 farmer companies to carry out the same model. The areas in which it has been effective is—Karnal, Kurukshetra, GT road belt , Charkhi Dadri etc. In Karnataka districts like Bagalkot, Bijapur, Dharwad, Hubli (Northern Karnataka) and in Southern districts, Shimoga, Coorg, Mangalore, Chikmangloor the presence of FPO is pretty active.
The farmers keep asking support for the intra state movement of the produce. The farmers who produce Pineapples in Shimoga and Mangoes in Dharwad, have asked for FPOs’ help for distributing the produce in cities like Delhi and Mumbai.
The situation has not been quite favourable and this is one of the biggest logistical challenges—I, my team and the farmers are facing. I am trying to get this resolved with the help of state authorities. The buyers around Delhi were identified as the one who couldn’t get connected with the FPOs in Shimoga and Dharwad.
April-May are the harvesting seasons and due to the lockdown the crops can go wasted if they aren’t harvested. Furthermore, the migration of labourers has created shortage of man-power. Lack of labourers has even affected loading and unloading of trucks. I hope the government relaxes the lockdown in the days to come.
According to the study, about 4 lakh trucks got stuck on the highway and the stock couldn’t be unloaded because of the lack of labourers. These are one of the major challenges farming communities are facing currently.
I have been receiving SOS calls from the farmers as they are anxious about their crops perishing, and I sincerely hope that the lockdown gets relaxed and the harvest doesn’t go waste.”