Read full article by Sandip Das@NatureIndia Photo Credit: Food Corporation of India
Amidst the world’s largest lockdown to check the spread of the novel coronavirus, India today announced easing restrictions for the agriculture sector from 20 April 2020. The lockdown exit would allow farmers to harvest standing crops that may feed a population of over 1.3 billion and support traditional exports.
Among the world’s largest producers of rice, wheat, sugarcane, cotton, vegetables and milk, India was faced with a tough agrarian challenge as farming activity halted following the lockdown on 25 March 2020, just ahead of the harvest and sowing seasons.
Earlier, Prime Minister Narendra Modi unveiled a package for the economically backward sections promising to provide free foodgrains to 800 million beneficiaries under the National Food Security Act (NFSA). Along with their existing monthly entitlements of 5 kg of subsidised food grains, these beneficiaries will be given an additional 5 kg food grain free for three months (April to June 2020).
The Food Corporation of India (FCI) has swung into action to transport at least 10 MT of food grains every month from India’s grain surplus states such as Punjab, Haryana, Madhaya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Odisha, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana to grain deficit states such as Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Bihar and Karnataka. Under the world’s biggest food security programme, FCI procures and supplies around 60 million tonnes (MT) of rice and wheat grains annually.
India is also among the global leaders in the production of pulses, legumes and millets, which are rich sources of nutrition. The COVID-19 pandemic now necessitates nutritious food for the masses more than ever, according to Rajeev Varshney, Research programme Director for Genetic Gains at Hyderabad-based International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT). “It’s high time to include other coarse cereals as they are highly nutritious. We need to keep our people healthy and with stronger immune systems,” Varshney told Nature India.