Ambreen Shah and Imtiyaz Beigh
Srinagar: Even as horticulture and agriculture related activities stand designated as “essential services”, farming at this crucial spring time in Kashmir remains badly hampered due to the ongoing corona lockdown.
Ziraat Times has been contacted by several farmers across the valley expressing their worry for the unavailability of agro-chemicals, labour and curbs on their movement out of their towns and cities into their farms.
There are fears if normal farming activities remain hindered, as they are now, agriculture sector – which contributes about 14% to the State GDP – might face losses worth thousands of crores of rupees.
Divisional Commissioner Kashmir, Pandurang Pole told Ziraat Times that they had “already issued orders to include pesticides and fertilisers in essential services” and that the administration was currently “focusing on arranging stocks at wholesale levels.”
“After re-stocking wholesalers, we will arrange re-stocking of retailers and then the farmers as well”, he added.
When informed that some farmers were complaining about their inability to move, he said that “farmers can get in touch with their district administrations and passes will be provided for the same”.
Several agro chemical companies say that they had completely suspended their activities.
Ayoob Khalid Qadri, Zonal Business Manager, Biostad North, told Ziraat Times, “As of now all these activities are suspended because we aren’t able to liquidate even the current stocks. Even though agriculture has been put under essential services, due to current restrictions there is no movement allowed in many areas and hence we don’t operate.”
Bashir Ahmad Basheer, President, Fruit Mandi, Parimpora, echoes this, “We know Home Ministry has issued a circular for agriculture to be an essential service but on ground nothing is being followed. We aren’t allowed to get the fertilisers or pesticides from the market due to the restrictions due to COVID-19.”
“Kashmir administration needs to give proper instructions as to what is to be followed by farmers and those associated with the supply chain”, Mr Basheer added.
Fruit farmers insist that April was a crucial month for horticulture as they are required to undertake several complex farming activities in their farms. They worry if they miss any particular activity, fruit crops, especially apples could be marred.
Fayaz Ahmad Malik, President, Sopore Fruit Mandi Association, told Ziraat Times that he had seberal reports that there was scarcity of pesticides and fertilisers in the market.
He believes that if the administration facilitates unhindered movement for them, they are committted to take all the precautions.
In South Kashmir, situation is almost the same.Rayees Ahmad Ganai, an agro-chemicals distributor in South Kashmir told Ziraat Times that their stocks were down by 60% compared to what they had last year.
“We aren’t even allowed to make the existing supplies to reach to the respective destinations”, he said.
Several farmers feel that if there are clear instructions from the administration to police and block and tehsil level government officials things could improve.
“It has become a very confusing situation for us. Administration is not allowing movement of goods and people. Dealers and distributors are shut and we aren’t able to manage”, Altaf Ahmad, a farmer from Sirhama, Anantnag said.