COVID-19: Rope in civil society to ease supply of food

  • IASbaba
  • March 30, 2020
  • 0
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Topic: General Studies 2:

  • Development processes and the development industry —the role of NGOs, SHGs, various groups and associations, donors, charities, institutional and other stakeholders. 

COVID-19: Rope in civil society to ease supply of food

Context: The COVID-19 pandemic & the ensuing lockdown has disrupted all major sectors of the economy. However, if unattended the crisis can have most devastating impact on the agricultural sector on which nearly 60% of India’s population is dependent.

During the relief package announced by government it stated that the beneficiaries of the PDS can avail three months’ ration at one go along with front loading money for farmers under PM-KISAN yojana. However, more needs to be done

Do You Know?

  • In 1918, the Spanish Flu infected 500 million people globally, when the world’s population was just 1.8 billion. 
  • The pandemic claimed the lives of 50 million people — 14 million to 18 million of them in India.   

What are the challenges with food during this times of crisis?

  • Implementation Difficulties with relief package: Challenge for fair price shops to deliver the provisions in an orderly manner with intact supply chain
  • Reduced Farmer income: Shortage of labour during this harvest season may lead to wastage of food produce especially perishable products like fruits & vegetables
  • High Prices: Disruption in food chain can lead to high prices for consumers
  • Chaos & Anarchy: If adequate food is not provided in a timely manner to people, it may lead to social unrest and political instability that further derails corrective measures.

Alternatives available

  • Suspend the APMC Act and encourage NGOs, civil society and corporate houses to directly procure from farmers.
  • Suspension of weekly markets where social distancing is seldom practiced
  • Rope in civil society NGOs, resident welfare associations & religious organisations – for orderly and safe distribution of food — both pre-cooked and fresh
  • Home (street) delivery of food provisions to avoid crowding
    • In Metro Cities like Bengaluru & Delhi, collaboration with food deliver companies like Zomato & Swiggy can help overcome supply chain constraints imposed due to lockdown
    • Local authorities can be given this task in semi-urban and rural areas


  • Labour for harvesting the produce
  • Safety of delivery personnel
  • Perishability of fruits & vegetables
  • Poultry industry affected – due to reduction in intake of chicken & eggs – has spill over effect on Maize (that is used as feed in Poultry sector)

Way Ahead

  • The Procurement agencies (FCI) and delivery agencies need to be trained about safety measures and supplied with safety gear
  • Compensating poultry and maize farmers
  • Announcing Rs 50/quintal per month to farmers as an incentive to stagger bringing farm produce to the market — say after May 10
  • Unloading of excessive buffer stock which is about 77 million metric tonnes (MMT) on March 1, against the norm of 21.4 MMT.
  • Use of data analytics to optimize the quantity and delivery of goods
  • Retail distribution lines need to be seamlessly linked to wholesale supply lines.

Connecting the dots:

  • Doubling of Farmers income – Ashok Dalwai Committee
  • Food Riots that has happened in the past across the world (Think French Revolution)

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