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article imageIndia's COVID-19 lockdown leaves no one to harvest the crops

By Karen Graham     Apr 1, 2020 in World
A severe shortage of labor, triggered by India's 21-day lockdown to curb the spread of the new coronavirus, will disrupt harvesting of winter crops in the world's second-largest producer of staple food grains, such as wheat.
India's northern states of Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh are known as the country's breadbasket and rely on farm laborers from eastern India. But after the country-wide lockdown went into effect on March 24, most of them returned to their villages.
“We’ve never seen anything like this,” said Ramandeep Singh Mann, a farmer from Punjab, whose family grows wheat, rice, and cotton on more than 45 acres (18 hectares) and would employ about 10 workers if they used mechanical harvesters. “We’ve no-one at all for harvests," he told reporters.
With crops expected to be ready for harvest by mid-April, Mann is just one of the thousands of farmers worrying about the unprecedented shortage of laborers needed to get mechanical harvesters into the fields or even pluck the crops by hand. There is also concern that even if the crops do get harvested - there may be no way to get them to market because there are fewer trucks.
Most of the farmers sell their crops at wholesale markets. These markets depend on a large army of laborers to unload produce and weigh and pack grain. The staffing shortage could also delay farmers’ payments for produce. India does have stockpiles of wheat, rice, and sugar for its own population and has not been exporting wheat.
"Who is going to put grains in the bag, bring produce to wholesale markets, and then transport it to various storage facilities?" asked Jadish Lal, a merchant at the Khanna grain market in Punjab.
More about coronavirus, India, Lockdown, winter crops, Swine flu pandemic
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