Since the beginning of the lockdown period due to the outbreak of COVID-19, the Department of Agriculture, Cooperation and Farmers’ Welfare, the Government of India has been taking several measures to facilitate farmers and farming activities at field level.
The lockdown coincides with the harvest season of the Rabi crops. The Department has been making concerted efforts so that farmers do not face any difficulties in selling their produce. To assure better returns especially for perishable crops like fruits and vegetables, the department encourages farmers to engage in ‘Direct marketing’. To promote the concept of Direct Marketing among farmers, the Department assists farmers/ group of farmers/Farmer Producer Organistions/ Cooperatives in selling their produce to bulk buyers/big retailers/processors etc.
In the Akola district of Maharashtra, farmers have worked out an inspiring model of direct marketing in which 69 farmer groups have sold crops worth 8.5 crore rupees directly to customers during the lockdown period.
Under the guidance of the District Agriculture Department, the farmers have been selling fresh vegetables and fruits directly to the customers at reasonable prices through 93 Direct Selling Outlets. These outlets are located in urban areas of Akola as well as, in nearby districts. Apart from these organised selling outlets, the farmers have put up small stalls at important spots in the area and are also providing door to door delivery.
One of the farmers in the group says, “We have already sold 850 metric tonnes of crops including fruits and vegetables so far. In order to save time and effort, our groups also use methods like online payments and order-on-phone service”.
Mohan Wagh, Project Officer, Agricultural Technology Management Agency, Akola says “With the implementation of the model, we have ensured that the farmers do not suffer due to the lockdown and are able to sell their produce at a decent price. Our Department issues identity cards and passes for the farmers and vehicles for the smooth management of the system.”
To prevent the spread of the COVID-19, the District Agriculture Department has advised farmers to use masks, sanitizers and practise social distancing on the farms and in the mandis.
In this context, it may be recalled that the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi recently expressed his appreciation for the functioning of Farmer Producers Organizations in Maharashtra and exhorted them to use digital platforms to sell more. He said this while speaking to the sarpanch of Medankarwadi, Maharashtra, during an online video interaction with sarpanchs across the country, on Panchayati Raj Diwas.