With May just around the corner, it is that time of the year when fruits and vegetables ripen and crops become ready for harvesting. However, this summer is not going to be an ordinary one. Not for the farmers, the consumers, or the annual yield.
Unfortunately, due to the global COVID-19 crisis, businesses across sectors have been dealt quite a blow, the Indian agricultural space being no exception. Having led to distinct challenges, the outbreak has presented a new struggle for the drivers of this sector – the farmers.
Challenges faced by the farmer community
Although the government has declared farming as an essential activity, the nation-wide lockdown and closure of retail chains still concern the farmer community. While they are allowed to harvest their crops, it is challenging for them to sell their produce in the market, mainly due to transport bottlenecks. This also acts as an impediment to the international export of various crops.
Adding to this challenge is the dipping household demand across cities and towns. Since families and individuals are now apprehensive about the safety of vegetables, it is leading to a heavy slowdown in their sales.
While farmers can produce and store crops, fruits, and vegetables in warehouses, the interruption in their sales is further leading to overstocking. Helpless in the current situation, farmers, as a result, have no option but to sell them at extremely low-price points. All these factors make it difficult for them to get deserving returns, thus giving a deep and direct hit to their only source of livelihood.
How Agritech players are addressing this challenge?
Ensuring compliance with social distancing, several agritech players are coming out with solutions like an online marketplace for farmers, where they can sell their produce and get decent returns, even during this hour of crisis. For instance, using these platforms, farmers can continue trading their produce without accessing markets physically and thus avoid over-crowding. All they need to do is upload their products and find suitable buyers in just a few simple steps.
Contactless pick-up and drop process
These players employ inhouse teams who are trained to conduct contactless pick-up and drop processes. For instance, when a farmer places his product on the platform, the teams from the nearby area are notified to visit the farmer’s home, godown or field to collect the produce and deliver it to the end-consumer.
During this process, farmers have the choice to either maintain a six feet distance from the personnel and physically monitor the collection procedure or can give them clear instructions on the phone itself. Additionally, to avoid wastage of perishable commodities, agritech players leverage facilities like accurate demand mapping. This allows them to envision demand in a particular area or from a specific retailer, much in advance. Accordingly, they can collect the exact quantities of produce from the farmers and deliver it to the consumers.
Accessing the right opportunities
With inter-state logistics powered by agritech players, small farm owners can connect with large buyers – be it retail chains or housing societies – to sell their produce as per their convenience. This can be a great opportunity for farmers to even build relations with international consumers and vice versa.
Ease in payments
Online platforms also help farmers avoid payment delays. These players follow a streamlined process and ensure farmers timely payments against their produce. Moreover, the platforms have an additional section where farmers can raise complaints and queries regarding any issue in the overall transaction. Dedicated teams actively take up these queries to offer instant clarifications round the clock.
To break the COVID 19 chain, several farmers across India have started to associate with renowned agritech players. e-Nam is also one such government-based portal, which is helping this cohort conduct buying and selling of produce online from the comforts of their home and thus preventing overcrowding in local mandis and APMC markets.
To date, agritech solutions have empowered small Indian farm owners in many ways. First, farmers can continue their operations through these platforms by strictly adhering to social distancing norms. Second, they don’t have to face payment woes anymore in the presence of efficient and streamlined e-payment methods. They can always have access to the entire Indian market even in times of lockdown, without the need for approaching the nearby mandis. Therefore, agritech solutions can be a potential game-changer for the Indian farmer community and revolutionize the conventional methods of farming in the times to come.