The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has put an unexpected pressure across the sugar supply chain in India, a country where approx. 50 million population are dependent on income generated by sugar-related industries with an estimated 35 million farmers involved in sugar cultivation on their land. The impact is felt by all the supply chain actors starting from farmers and labourers to processors, traders, and retailers.
Network of Asia and Pacific Producers currently has 08 Fairtrade sugarcane producers in India supporting over 5000+ farmers. With the harvesting and processing getting over in Feb, the sugar mill has paid the farmers to an extent of 20-25 % of the total value against their supplies as of now. Due to lock down the orders are either getting postponed or cancelled by the importers and the factories are forced to delay the payment for the farmers, thereby affecting the livelihood of nearly 70 % of the small and marginal farmers.
The lockdown is expected to have a further impact on the quality and productivity of sugarcane for the next season. Nearly 60% of the farmers in India grow ratoon crop and approx. 40% of them take up new planting every year. The farmers are finding it difficult to invest in inputs because of the cash crunch and restriction in the movement of farmworkers and transportations. This has affected the growth of the crop which will ultimately lead to a reduction of quality and productivity. Few farmers who also grow secondary crops (pulses, oil, seeds, vegetables, etc) in the month of June as their supplementary source of income are left in an exceedingly difficult situation due to lack of money to buy seeds. There is a concern that if the current sugar stocks are not picked up by the buyers after two months, the traders will have to look into the domestic market at a much lesser price, which will severely impact the income of farmers and workers.
As the challenges for the agri-sector continue to mount the sugar SPOs in Karnataka have stepped forward to support their farmers and workers to reduce their hardships during the challenging times.
Muniraju Kempayanapalya Shivanna, member & Fairtrade Premium Planning Committee Leader of Primary Agriculture Credit Co-operative Sangha Niyamit, Itagi ; FLO ID 27791 and NAPP Board Member has also volunteered and signed up to be a part of ‘COVID19 Corona Warrior’ for Ramanagara district, located at a distance of 50kms from Bangalore. The ‘COVID19 Corona Warrior Initiative’ is a collaboration between Dept. of Information and Public Relation and Red Cross Society of India and the State Labour Dept. The volunteers are trained to dissipate panic among the public, to extend non-medical help to the district administrative division in carrying out awareness campaigns, marking of social distancing among other crucial roles.
‘’In response to COVID-19, and post the Fairtrade International announcement on the increased flexibility on Fairtrade Premium use and decision making in view of (COVID-19) pandemic by the small producer organisations, the Sugar SPOs from India has conducted a board meeting accordingly and taken the decision to provide medical reliefs to supports its farmers and workers. They have distributed medical soaps, liquid hand wash, face masks, floor disinfectants containing sodium hydrochloride as per WHO guidelines, etc. In addition, the SPOs in association with the local government and Govt. of India have also distributed groceries to the impoverished farmers and workers’’ – Muniraju Kempayanapalya Shivanna; Primary Agriculture Credit Co-operative Sangha Niyamit, Itagi; FLO ID 27791
The 04 Sugar SPOs from the State of Karnataka, India have already initiated their ‘Fairtrade Premium Plan of Action’ to support its farmer members. 60% of the implementation has already been completed, while 40% is ongoing. Apart from the below protection activities the plan of action also covers 50% of their cost for Flocert certification, and currently expecting another 50% support in audit fee by Flocert.
The SPOs have initiated their plan to distribute protection kit comprising of disinfectant, handwash, soap, antiseptic liquid and face masks. The plan will cover and benefit: –
1300 members of 09 villages through Aravatagi Primary Agriculture Credit Co-operative Sangha Niyamit, Doori; Flo ID: 27788.
1300 members through Devarshigihalli Primary Agriculture Credit Co-operative Sangha Niyamit; Flo ID: 23894
2500 members from 02 villages through Primary Agriculture Credit Co-operative Sangha Niyamit, Itagi; Flo ID 27791
5000 members of the 02 villages through Primary Agriculture Credit Co-operative Sangha Niyamit, Chikkamunavalli; Flo ID: 27789. The SPO has also taken additional protection measures for the community by sanitizing the entire 02 villages with disinfectant.
The Plan of Action laid down by the SPOs speaks of an admirable model that also focusses on extending one’s help to a wider community by supporting each other to cope with the situation.