Containing COVID-19 impacts on rice production

With rice harvest season approaching, a new risk brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic threatening the harvest and post-harvest of rice lies ahead of us. Farmes will harvest their rice about the end of October. Necessary management measures should be taken now by authorities to ensure that there is no obstacle for farmers in their harvest, post-harvest and supply chain of rice due to COVID-29 health guidelines and restrictions.
Because of growing short-lived paddy and using modern cultivation methods, paddy will be ripe to be harvested in the last week of October nationwide. This situation would bring labour shortage and farmers opt to use machinery.
Additionally, we need to prescribe new measures to ensure that the price of rice cannot be buffeted by COVID-19 related travel restrictions, which can have an impact on trading.
It is the State’s duty to ensure fair price and equal market share to prevent farmers from being exploited. The law has also made provisions for this.
The country set the target of 15.1 million acres of rain-fed paddy this rainy season.
The Union Government has taken quick steps to assist the poor and the needy through cash transfers. Recognizing the importance of agriculture, as part of the economic recovery plan, CERP specifically identified strategies that ‘support farmers, small agri-processors, seed farmers and agri-businesses for planting and income retention’.
Activities identified included ‘loan support to farmers, market connectivity and improvements in productivity through extension services. All these are expected to build resilience in the agriculture sector and thereby ensuring food security.
While on the production front there was limited impact in the early months, agriculture trade and exports have been affected significantly due to the lockdown measures, closure of borders and movement of goods. Border trade in agriculture commodities appears to have been affected significantly over the past four months, although there is a turnaround in the most recent period.
But the present risks from the COVID-19 pandemic are putting new challenges in front of the rice value-chain that is already under serious threat. As a matter of urgency, we must be cognizant of the challenges ahead of us and we must continue to pay close attention to food security and nutrition, sustainable agriculture and rural development, and building resilience of food and agriculture systems.

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