April is not harvest season for many crops in Kerala, but there are some farmers badly affected by the lockdown implemented by the government to contain the coronavirus outbreak. Few days ago, the Kerala government had said that harvesting would be considered an essential service and would be excluded from the lockdown. The ripe paddy in Kuttanad was harvested following the Government Order and the Agriculture Ministry undertook steps to procure the paddy.
However, this is the season of pineapple-harvesting in the state. Though Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayam has assured that harvesting in pineapple plantations would be done without any issues, farmers are struggling to find a market for the harvested fruits. The lockdown means that there is also a shortage of labourers in small-scale farms. Vazhakulam, the hub of pineapple cultivation in Kerala, will face huge losses if the present situation continues, say farmers.
â€śWe would face a huge loss if the fruits are not sent to other states. Usually, we have a huge market outside Kerala. They have said that lockdown rules are eased and some of our loads can be taken outside. Around 5,000 tonnes are ready for harvest in Vazhakulam,â€ť Baby John of Pineapple Farmersâ€™ Association told TNM.
â€śIn big plantations, the labourers will be living in the premises. So harvesting will not be a trouble. But for small scale farmers, who depend on daily wage labourers, it is difficult. For them, the marketing is also in trouble as the local markets are totally full,â€ť he pointed out.
Baby John said that pineapple farmers are already around Rs 700 crore in debt and the present situation will only worsen it. â€śThere should be deductions in the interest rates and repayment time should be extended for farmers,â€ť he suggested.
A continued lockdown would mean only 10 percent of the production would be sold out, he added.
Another major setback will be for cardamom farms, where labourers are unavailable for the harvest season.
â€śThe harvesting of cardamom in Idukki district is pending as most of the labourers are from Tamil Nadu and they are not available. The industry will incur a huge loss due to this. Apart from that, people in local markets buy only essential things and they don't even think about buying fruits. This also brings a huge loss to farmers,â€ť said Joshy Joseph, General Secretary of the Kerala Farmers Federation.
Meanwhile, Agriculture Minister VS Sunilkumar's office told TNM that the government has initiated measures to ensure the harvesting of crops, classifying it under essential services.
The Minister has said that pineapples would be collected from farmers through the state's Kerala State Horticultural Products Development Corporation (HORTICORP) Mission.
In neighboring Karnataka though, the situation is slightly different for it is the harvest season of many crops and vegetables in the state.
â€śIt is the harvest season of turmeric, grapes and pineapple. This is the time ginger is also harvested and transported to north India. Bananas need to be harvested by now and we are already behind by two weeks. They are rotting in the plantations. In the Tungabhadra belt, rice harvest usually begins in the last week of March. But we need labourers and even if it is harvested, we need it to be sold in the market. Cotton needs to be extracted from plants in the northern Karnataka districts of Koppal, Ballari, Yadagiri, Raichur and Belagavi. How will this be done? What will be the condition of farmers who are facing losses due to this? Do the decision-makers know the cost of cultivating these crops?â€ť Kodihalli Chandrashekhar, President, Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha, told TNM.
â€śAgricultural markets are closing and farmers are unable to sell their produce,â€ť he added.