With the spread of Covid-19 no sphere of the economy is untouched by the outbreak. Though Covid-19 was born in China, it travelled across the globe in no time. It is such an issue which has affected at micro and macro level with same intensity. It is the talk of town and also their fears as well. Any extent of precautions seems to be insufficient. Almost all nations are currently practicing social distancing and are in a lock down mode.
In spite of social distancing across the globe, Covid-19 is unable to stop the agricultural industry even in a complete lock down state. All of a sudden there is a sharp realization for food and its scarcity. As much as essential it is to have a food supply chain to run smoothly, it should be taken into account the agricultural performance of the economy for the year. Such a phenomena was not experienced for many decades and this virus will have a negative impact on the overall Indian agriculture economy. The food supply chain system is disturbed and is working under stressed conditions. In recent times agriculture sector was already facing various problems due to unpredictable monsoons and coronavirus further aggravated it.
A lot of crops have been damaged due to heavy and untimely rainfall by which farmers are facing huge losses. Farmers are worried in these lockdown and maintaining social distance situation as it is Rabi season and it is time for harvesting standing crops. Further, Coronavirus has been disturbing food supply chain restricting movement of the goods and availability of labours affecting at the seed level to marketing. The harvesting of crops like potatoes, chilies, sugarcane, etc has been disturbed due to shortage of labour. Most of the laborers hailing from Bihar and Jharkhand, UP, have returned to their hometown due to the fear of coronavirus. Even farmers are facing difficulties for sowing of summer season crops as they are not getting seeds, fertilizers and other inputs due to lockdown. This is crucial as it will postponed the production cycle.
In the agriculture industry, logistics and transportation are the most critical aspects as it deals with the perishable goods. Considering the length, width, and topography of India, logistics is always a critical factor in agricultural exports. The mode of agriculture transport depends on different circumstances such as for the long haul movement of fresh produce is primarily via road due to perishability and for long-distance movement of products like wheat and rice is carried out by rail. The lack of good logistics connectivity creates hurdles for harvest reaching the market in time that negatively impact the price of agriculture commodities in the market. Hence efficient logistics is of essence for effective supply chain where producer can get good price for their products. However, coronavirus lockdown made adverse impact on supply chain of various agricultural commodities. It has become very difficult for loading and unloading of agriculture produce and hampering the movement of trucks carrying essential commodities, not getting sufficient workers to work in several cold storages and warehouses. Further, the poultry, fisheries and meat sectors are facing challenges due to spreading rumors about COVID-19 and meat consumption.
Impact on Agricultural Exports
Without agribusiness development, the Indian agricultural economy will not reach its potential. Hence, more focus on export is the paradigm shift in the Indian agriculture economy. Its heading towards a production-based economy to market-based agriculture. New agriculture export policy may set the foundation to make Indian agriculture globally competitive. Ease of doing agricultural business index, encourages healthy competition between the States to create a healthy environment for agribusinesses that will encourage more investment, innovation skills, intellectual property safeguards, etc. Transport Marketing Assistance Scheme mitigates the hindrance of a higher cost of transportation of export of identified agriculture products due to transshipment and to promote brand recognition for Indian agricultural products in the quantified foreign markets. India has suitable agro-climatic conditions and diversified agriculture produce for agriculture exports. Government has taken various initiatives to boost the agricultural exports.
Thus it is important to understand how exports market responds in the current wake of Corona Virus. Certainly, there is an impact of Corona virus on Indian economy. Indian exporters, especially in electronics, pharmaceuticals, chemicals, and automobile sectors, are facing problems as they are dependent on China for raw material. However, Indian agriculture does not depend on anyone for raw materials. Its entire chain can be completed without any indulgence from other countries and hence, India can push its agriculture exports in the global markets to fill up the space vacated by the neighbouring countries.
(The Writer is a Social Scientist. The views expressed are personal)