In COVID-19 times, 85% of the farmers surveyed wanted any outside intervention to be permitted either by the panchayat or any regulatory authority from blocks / districts.

78 farmers have not visited the market due to COVID induced lockdown Report
Money Rural Markets Tuesday, June 16, 2020 - 19:38

A staggering 78% of the farmers have not visited the market in recent times due to the complete lockdown with 89% of the farmers claiming that sale through a salesman or other representative was prohibited in their areas, a new report has revealed. 

In COVID-19 times, 85% of farmers wanted any outside intervention to be permitted either by the panchayat or any regulatory authority from blocks / districts. 

Impact Communication in collaboration with Rural Marketing Association of India has prepared the report, which tries to gauge how this pandemic has impacted consumer buying behaviour, influencers, trade, and community ecosystem at the village level. 

“In the Agriculture & Allied sector, due to the initial effect of COVID paralysing their farming cycle, farmers are worried about the timely availability of seeds and other agri inputs, labour, farm machinery, etc., building uncertainty,” the study says.  

There is an acceptance of the need to be informed and educated on the means to adapt. 66% of the farmers showed interest in attending service camps, customer meets, agri meets and counselling sessions to help push their return to normalcy provided there is proper permission from the authorities and physical distancing norms are maintained.

“Rural agri retailers have adapted to the new model of business i.e. they are connecting with their small base of consumers and capturing the demand and enabling deliveries at village level. The trend of on call delivery at the retailer level is prevalent in the southern and eastern states,” the report says. 33% of respondents have admitted to taking orders through phone calls with south India contributing a major share as compared to the east and north. 

In the FMCG (Fast Moving Consumer Goods) sector, while the pandemic has spiked the demand in essential commodities, the majority of the markets are struggling with addressing the spike due to the breakdown in the supply chain and distribution. 60% of the consumers say their incomes are affected and are going for a very thought-through purchase. 

Pricing and non availability of the preferred brand is paving the way for the brand shift. 26% of the respondents shared that they tried a new brand in the lockdown period, and 43% respondents are satisfied with the change and are most likely to stick to the new brand. 

Retailers are struggling with the delivery of products by distributors, while the latter are complaining about lack of enough stock to serve markets. While 79% respondents shared that salesmen from the companies are not visiting, 71% respondents mentioned there is no supply from the regular distributors. However, the retailer is optimistic. While 30% of the respondents felt that the demand in the FMCG sector, specifically in necessity goods space will increase, only 7% believed the opposite. 

The report adds that the disrupted supply chain is crippling distribution. “Across states, there is a block in the supply chain currently among major FMCG companies. The distributors are functional only for a few hours through the day to be able to manage their overhead expenses. Currently, distributors are serving only 20% - 40% of their retail base in the periphery. Movement of commercial vehicles is a big problem, as the advisories vary from district to district.”

The pharmaceutical sector witnessed a lot of panic buying with the onset of the pandemic, both by retailers and consumers alike. In the initial period, consumers’ with chronic ailment bought medicines for a month or more. Whilst the medicines for common ailments are in their usual sales cycle, there is a surge in demand for the OTC (over the counter) brands for hygiene and well-being, the report says. 

With the peak summer, increasing demands for fans and coolers has been observed in the FMCD (Fast Moving Consumer Durables) sector, however, the consumer seems to be conscious of their choices. 43% of the respondents preferred value for money to brand, while 53% believe it will take more than 3 months for markets to get normal. 

In the automotive sector, 52% of the consumers suggested that they would be looking at a two-wheeler purchase once the situation improves as shared mobility is not safe. 

Dealers are experiencing a 40-50% slump in demand in the construction sector. Retailers are losing 30-60% business on account of supplies and new constructions being deferred, the report says. 

As far as media consumption of rural consumers is concerned, 70% of respondents considered TV as their preferred means for consumption followed by mobile at 25%. 80% of respondents could read their messages and 78% could even write their messages.

The report concludes by saying that there is uncertainty amidst every group of consumers, and it has become imperative for the brands to be present in buyer's mind space and seller’s shelf space. For this, there is a need to retain and reconnect with the existing consumer base and it will be imperative to grow collaborations. 

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