Janata curfew, lockdown, push merchants, fruit and vegetable growers to penury

Three-hours window in Dakshina Kannada and four-hours window in the State insufficient for produces reach customers.

Farmers raising vegetable and fruits and merchants dealing with them, wholesale as well as retail, have been hit hard with the fortnight long ‘Janata Curfew’ and the ‘lockdown’ that began on Monday with the limited time available to dispose of the produce.

Though the government has said there would be no restrictions on agricultural activities, trading the produce was limited to the essentials purchase window of 6 a.m. to 10 a.m., thus blocking the entire supply chain. While farmers were unable to harvest and sell off their entire produce on time, wholesale merchants were unable to sell the produce on time to retailers due to the time restriction.

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B.K. Imtiyaz, Secretary of Mangaluru APMC Varthakara Sangha, told The Hindu that wholesale traders who place orders with the farmers have to lift the produce whether or not they would be able to sell them to retailers. Because of the State-wide COVID-19 restrictions on commercial activities except between 6 a.m. and 10 a.m. and the weekend curfew exclusive to Dakshina Kannada has affected the traders severely, Mr. Imtiyaz said.

A wholesale trader in fruits at APMC in Baikampady in Mangaluru said the wastage used to be up to 30% of the produce during normal days. With the restrictions, more than 50% of the fruits go waste so was their income. Wholesale merchants have been throwing away rotten fruits with there being no choice, he said.

Nithin, a retail fruit merchant in Mangaluru said the reduced essentials purchase window has affected retail fruit vendors as they were unable to procure produce from wholesale traders, bring the same to their shops and sell within four hours. In Dakshina Kannada, this window has been reduced to just three hours thereby making things worse, he said. Consequently, their profit margins have shrunk with more wastage.

Meanwhile, farmers growing vegetables and fruits across the State have been airing their distress on social media platforms and appealing to people to buy their produce at field-price so that they do not suffer losses. However, majority of them were unable to dispose of their produce which perish fast.

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