The agriculture sector may have survived the Covid-19 crisis, but it is still vulnerable to the threat of climate change.
According to crop production experts, the health crisis had minimum impact on the production of crops. However, it disrupted the supply of fresh fruits and vegetables across the country.
Talking exclusively to the Express Tribune, Director General of Agriculture (Extention) Punjab, Dr. Anjum Ali said, the Covid-19 related lockdown has not caused any damage to the agriculture sector. Climate change, he cautioned, has taken a toll on crops.
“It is still hot in South Punjab. The cotton crop along with others, has been affected,” said Dr. Ali. Rain during the month of September, he said, has affected the tomato crops across the province.
“Farmers in many areas had to recultivate,” the director general said.
Even during the lockdowns, he said, no restrictions were imposed on the agriculture sector. Now, that the lockdown is over and the situation has improved, it appears that climate change is a bigger threat to the sector.
Farmers from the province also believe the Covid-19 crisis had limited impact on the agriculture sector.
However, it has affected farmers, middlemen and individuals, who play an important role in the supply chain.
While Covid-19 had no direct impact on agriculture, the overall demand for vegetables and fruits plunged during the health crisis. Much of it was primarily due to the lockdowns that were imposed to control the spread of the respiratory disease. “During this time, farmers scrambled to find other ways to sell their crops,” said Aamer Hayat Bhandara, a Punjab-based farmer. “Many farmers had no option but to destroy their produce,” he added.
The agriculture sector is facing several challenges. One of them is the temporary shortage of phosphorus fertilizers. According to Bhandara, the availability of the fertilizer, which is imported, was limited during the Covid-19 crisis. Now, that the imports have resumed, he said, the prices are expected to increase.
In the last few weeks the prices have gone up by Rs400 – 450. While difficult times lie ahead, the government appears to be committed to helping the nation’s farmers.
According to details, the government has provided several subsidies to offset the financial impact of the ongoing health crisis.
“The government is spending Rs. 7.75 billion on projects that focus on important crops,” claimed Punjab Minister for Agriculture Syed Hussain Jahanian Gardezi. For wheat alone, Gardezi said, the government plans to spend Rs.12 billion. The minister said the government is also providing subsidized seed bags to farmers and other support during this time.