Agriculture put on hold?
IFP Editorial: MOMA has been running around buying up vegetables from farmers in the state. But, it is not simply enough to cut the large-scale losses faced by the farmers. The time has come for agriculture and allied departments to put their heads together to work out a solution.
In almost all the lockdown relaxations issued by the state government so far, the most important part of agriculture and allied activities had been omitted. As the markets are closed and temporary markets put on hold, vegetable farmers are running helter-skelter in a bid to sell their produce at throwaway prices, as they are perishable items. Of course, Manipur Organic Mission Agency (MOMA) has been running around buying up vegetables from different places in the state in collaboration with certain CSOs. But, it is not simply enough to cut the large-scale losses faced by the farmers. So much for the euphoria over reduction of MSP by the government. On the other hand, there are reports of police chasing away agricultural workers from the fields in the name of Covid 19 restrictions. The month of June has always been the ideal time for starting agriculture activities with the onset of monsoon, like sowing of seeds and transplantation. When the farmers and labourers should be toiling in the fields, they are being over-burdened with restrictions while the concerned departments remain oblivious to the problem, the results of which will begin to show in November and December. So far, the monsoon has been erratic. Add to that the problem of cash shortage among the farmers and rising prices of paddy seeds and fertilizers.
Farmers of the state are also facing price fluctuations and uncertainty of their produce. Availability of imported rice at cheaper price discourages our farmers to grow rice. They consider rice farming is already a losing profession on account of high cost of production and no remunerative price. The present trend of declining profitability together with higher cost of new technology and a degree of uncertainty, in both price and productivity, meant that farmers had to bear tremendous risks in agriculture. Thus the present condition of agriculture in the state is very critical. High yield rate, high cost of production and low profitability is the present scenario of agricultural enterprise in the state.
Changing agricultural practice in the state requires various inputs which are imported from other states at high transport cost. Almost all variable inputs viz. chemical fertilizers, HYV seeds, pesticides etc. are imported from other states. Due to law and order problem, many times farmers in the state encountered shortage of these inputs. The price of inputs is exceptionally high in the state, but farmers cannot wait for cheaper price and used to buy at any price. Thus, with the rising input costs and wage rate makes the cost of production very high in the state. On the other hand, market for agricultural products in the state is very backward and farmers sell their product at local markets at low prices. Today price of local rice is greatly influenced by the price of imported rice.
Manipur farmers are mostly poverty stricken and indebted. So, they have to depend on investments from the urban people in the form of ‘Phoudamshel’ and the landowners. They still have to give the pledged number of Phoubots (80 Kgs) to the investors or the landowners, while they struggle with whatever is left of the harvest. Their entire sustenance depends on whatever is left of the harvest.
And they suffer when the price of paddy plummets. In a word, agriculture in the state is still being practiced at a subsistence level as a survival for the poor and landless farmer. In such a scenario, the time has come for agriculture and allied departments to put their heads together to work out a solution for beginning agricultural activities while adhering to Covid 19 restrictions and appropriate behaviour. And for the sake of God, let the experts take over the stewardship of these technical directorates instead of time-serving bureaucrats.