GUWAHATI, April 5 - With crops left to rot in the fields, the State�s vegetable growers have been among the hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. The depressing situation is manifest across districts, with the beleaguered growers cursing their luck, as vegetable markets have closed down and the temporary arrangements by the government authorities to facilitate restricted movement of vegetables have left out most.
The lack of sufficient number of cold storages in the State has further compounded the situation.
�There is nothing we can do but to watch in horror as our vegetables rot in the orchards. Market operations have virtually stopped, and the government authorities are not procuring our produce nor are we being allowed to go out and sell,� a harrowed farmer from Rupahihat in Nagaon district rued.
The agriculture department, however, reasons that it has been doing its best to provide succour to the farmers and has facilitated transportation of the required quantity of vegetables to the towns and Guwahati city.
�This was inevitable, as the demand for vegetables has plummeted with restaurants, dhabas and hotels under shutdown. Yet, we have been doing our best to reach out to the growers and are procuring the required quantities for domestic consumption by households,� an official told The Assam Tribune.
The claim of adequate quantity of vegetables, however, did not cut much ice with many city dwellers who said that except for some cabbages, the supply of vegetables had been quite low.
The official added that the department had to work under the guidelines of the health department and the Assam State Disaster Management Authority during the lockdown and the deputy commissioners had been empowered to give vehicle permits to notified vendors for transportation.
�On Friday we formed two committees at district and State levels for procuring produce from the growers and facilitating its sale. Before that, our district agricultural officers had been coordinating with the deputy commissioners in every district for vegetable procurement and transportation,� he said.
Acknowledging the dearth of cold storages in the State, the official said that the few cold storages were being used to store potatoes.
The official added that efforts were on to ease the situation further without compromising on the lockdown norms and strictly adhering to physical distancing. �The State has 37 lakh farmers. Any hasty or imprudent step in violation of the norms can trigger a disaster,� he said.