In nearly three weeks since the nationwide lockdown to contain the COVID-19 pandemic, life is changing across the country. In Kathmandu, scarcity of essential goods such as rice, lentils, cooking gas, vegetables, and meat has become acute. People are purchasing these items at much higher prices. Fresh vegetables have become the scarce commodities in Kathmandu since the lockdown disrupted transportation channel and vegetable sellers have also confined themselves within their households due to the fear of transmission. The people to suffer most from this situation have been the farmers, who have not been able to harvest the crops and vegetables from their fields and supply them to the market. As a result, in many places across the country, they have left the ripe harvest uncollected. Elsewhere they are spilling the milk on the road or feeding the cattle with the fresh vegetables. The situation today is while fresh vegetables and crops are rotting or remain uncollected in the fields in some parts of the country, people in other parts are struggling to obtain the same.
Farmers in Kailali have not been able to harvest wheat crop. Farmers in Kavre, Dhading and Makwanpur districts are either forced to let the vegetables rot or rely on the middlemen to sell their products grown with hard labor at extremely low prices. In Kathmandu, either the vegetables are not easily available or if they are available the consumers have to pay extremely high prices. The prices of cauliflower, cabbage, tomato, etc have gone up too high inside the valley. In Panchthar too, farmers are feeding cabbages and spinach to the cattle and vegetables like coriander leaves, radish, peas, and mushroom lie on the fields. Besides, the season for planting new crops and vegetables is approaching fast. They are unlikely to be able to do so due to the lockdown.
Needless to say, agriculture sector, which contributes around 30 percent to the country's GDP, is a pillar of our economy but it has been badly affected by the COVID-19 induced lockdown. Farming activities and the labor movements have come to a halt across the country. If the lockdown extends, the farming activity might completely stop. In this situation, the government has to make an arrangement whereby the farmers at least do not have to waste their products and people also get the vegetables on their table. Transporters should be provided with protective tools so that they can transport the vegetables without the fear of contracting COVID-19. Recently, 11 spots inside the valley have been designated for the farmers to sell their produce. The arrangement should be made whereby the farmers can take their products from the field to these designated places. Minister of Agriculture and Livestock Management Ghanashyam Bhusal has warned of hunger if the agricultural production cannot be kept smooth during the lockdown. In the meantime, we need to end this situation where vegetable products are rotting in some places while people are facing the scarcity of the same in other places.