Second wave of COVID-19 lockdown and restrictions will have no impact on India’s agri sector: Niti Aayog

Niti Aayog Member (Agriculture) Ramesh Chand has said that the second COVID-19 wave will not impact the Indian agriculture sector in any way as rural areas saw spread of infections in May when agriculture activities remained at bare minimum. 

In an interview with Press Trust of India (PTI), Chand said that India’s policies on subsidy, price and technology have remained too much in favour of rice, wheat and sugarcane, and there is need to make the procurement and minimum support price policy favourable to pulses.

May is a peak summer month and no crop is sown, no crop is harvested except little bit of vegetables and some off-season crops. Agriculture activities peak in the month of March or till middle of April, after which it comes down significantly and again peaks with the arrival of monsoon.

“So even if less availability of labour is there in the month of May till mid-June, I don’t think that will impact agriculture in anyway,” Chand said. He pointed out that labour force is moving to rural areas as there has been a lot of increase in COVID-19 cases in urban areas and these labourers are willing to work in the agriculture sector for livelihood. “From the output side, you look at agriculture market data. Market for agriculture (is) just working normally everywhere,” he argued.

The Niti Aayog member added that “in India, our subsidy policy, our price policy, technology policy, have remained too much in favour of rice and wheat and sugarcane. So I strongly believe that along with the technological breakthrough, we need to make our procurement, our MSP “favorable for pulses”.

Chand pointed out that pulses are not like edible oil that can be imported in big quantity from outside the country as pulses are available in international markets in small quantities. Asked whether the government was considering reduction in import duty of edible oils, he said the main reason for the increase in edible oils prices is the rise in international rates and it’s not that India’s output is low.

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