Government body comes to the rescue of Junnar's farmers amid lockdown

Updated: Apr 12, 2020, 07:12 IST | Vinod Kumar Menon | Mumbai

ICAR to extend technical and scientific support to fruit and vegetable farmers to help salvage produce

Cucumbers pile up in a farm at Junnar, as farmers haven't been able to sell their produce  in the last three weeks
Cucumbers pile up in a farm at Junnar, as farmers haven't been able to sell their produce in the last three weeks

The Indian Council of Agriculture Research (ICAR), Ministry of Agriculture, Delhi, has taken cognisance of Sunday mid-day's story last week, on the plight of Junnar's fruit and vegetable farmers, who were facing heavy losses due to the national lockdown, and has decided to provide them technical and scientific support.

Confirming the development, Dr Anand Kumar Singh, deputy director general, horticulture sciences at ICAR, said, "We spoke to a few of the farmers in Junnar, after which we decided to extend to them technical support, free of cost."

Dr Singh said that a circular issued by the Union Home Ministry last week had exempted farmers from certain restrictions, during the lockdown.

Dr Anand Kumar Singh, horticulture sciences, ICAR
Dr Anand Kumar Singh, horticulture sciences, ICAR

"Though exceptions have been made for farming operations, procurement of farm produce and their timely movement to mandis, need to be expedited," he said, adding, "Unfortunately, due to lack of awareness about the existing relaxation given by the Centre, many of the farmers in Junnar suffered severe losses."

To ensure that their produce reaches consumers as soon as possible, ICAR will pitch in with technical support. "We also want them to learn the science of zero-wastage of crop produce. Instead of dumping their produce, due to non-availability of market places, they can convert it into pastes, purees, and other products," the deputy director general added.

Post the lockdown period, the farmers will also be trained to employ newer technologies in their existing market practices, along with free grading and packaging tips.

Farmers in Junnar have already been discussing plans to directly deliver their produce to urban households, through digital platforms. Dr Anand said that it "was inspiring to see their willingness to bring out a revolutionary change in the system, by eliminating existing market practice and directly reaching the consumer". "This is going to be the future of India and we will provide them all necessary help," he said.

'Appreciate govt support'

Dr Datta Khomane, a veterinarian and farmer from Junnar said that the situation hasn't yet improved in the region. "Our sarpanch had recently written a letter to the district agricultural officers, requesting for a market space either in the Pune, Panvel or Pimpri Chinchwad municipal corporations. so that the farmers from Junnar could come and sell their produce to the customers directly, but we haven't got any response," he said.

He, however, thanked the ICAR for extending their support. "The farmers are eager to get trained for making optimum use of our produce. We are grateful to the ICAR, for coming forward to help us." He further added, "The technical knowhow, setting up and maintenance of small cold storage facilities, and funding from the government will be helpful."

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