Framers bring local produce from various villages to be transported to Kohima.
Due to supply chain disruption amidst COVID-19 lockdown, both farmers and vendors are facing untold hardship
Atono Tsükrü Kense
Kohima | May 4
As the battle against the deadly coronavirus wages on, local farmers and women street vendors who have been dependent on marketing their products for sustenance have been profoundly hit by the lockdown, which has been extended for another two weeks.
Street vendors are an integral part of the economy. However, despite their contributions, they are often disregarded and ignored. While most of them are the sole earners of their households, they continue to face many challenges that stand in their way of providing their goods and services.
There have been numerous reports from across the state, where farm produce are rotting away in the fields as marketing linkages have been cut off.
On any normal day, local women vendors acted as the sole link between farmers and markets in the urban areas. In such a scenario like the present, both the farmers and the vendors are facing untold hardship and are unable to even buy their basic essential needs.
To mitigate the predicament of the local farmers, Entrepreneurs Associate (EA) stepped in to facilitate marketing of local produce from the villages, and also engaging in relief works to support many of its members who live from hand to mouth.
EA has taken upon itself the burden of collecting products from some of the districts, namely vegetables, pork and snails from Phek; local honey, papayas, bananas and pork from Tuensang; bananas from Wokha; cabbages, broccoli, coriander, and cauliflower from Senapati district, Manipur; tomatoes from Zunheboto; and pumpkins, tomatoes, bottle gourd, lemon, chillies from Dimapur district.
Speaking to The Morung Express, EA advisor Neikule Doulo, said ever since the lockdown was imposed, the EA has been bombarded with requests from farmers in different parts of the state, requesting to market their goods.
Produces rotting in fields
Citing some ground realities happening in the rural areas, she said, some cabbage farmers came with 1800 kgs of cabbages as the vegetables were rotting in the fields, while farmers from Phek sent 1500 mugs of snails, and there are farmers who are slaughtering their livestock owing to their inability to feed them.
It was also learnt that women farmers and vendors in many villages have approached EA with requests to purchase their goods. These observations, Neikule said, was challenging for EA as engaging in marketing was an activity which was beyond their purview.
“All these observations have compelled us to seek ways to help them at this very difficult juncture,” the advisor said. There were also requests of the district authorities to link these farmers to the market, considering the shortage of vegetables created due to the lockdown.
Some marketing glitches
With marketing being a very new activity for EA, Neikule sharing their interesting experiences said, there was one incident where the pork brought from Tuensang without a refrigerated van caused the meat to partly rot owing to a long and hot journey of 8 hours.
On another occasion, EA bought pork @ Rs 252 per kilo from Viswema village and sold it at 250 per kilo to customers at Kohima since it was the rate mandated by the Municipal authority just to support the local people at this crucial juncture.
On a positive note, she opined: “It was a lesson learnt for the organisation as we realised that we are indeed ill-prepared for such a pandemic lockdown, and the need to change the marketing systems.”
Engaging private vehicles
Since EA did not have any experience in delivery services prior to the lockdown, Neikule said, private vehicles are being engaged to ferry products as commercial vehicles were not willing to take up business. Normally, the mode of transportation of the produces, she informed, was that the vehicles engaged in carrying relief materials to the villages, purchases products upon return, taking it back to the towns for markets.
A lot of times, no profit
Even though EA is helping the farmers by selling off their produces, most of times, it doesn’t make any profit after deducting the cost of transportation. Nonetheless, Neikule was not disappointed in the least.
“We are helping the farmers by buying their products, purchasing it on cash so that the money flows back into their homes at this difficult juncture,” she maintained.
A lesson learnt strategy
“When we realised that meat protein was an important part of the diet of our people, we had to change our strategy by selling pork in shares instead of KG wise” shared Neikule, adding that farmers were unwilling to sell by KGs.
“Some agencies already into pork business had sufficient stock of pigs being reared in their stockyards to be able to continuously sell in KG basis, but for us who do not have that supply chain and were not into piggery business, had to innovate and adapt to the market exigencies during this lockdown,” she remarked.
As a Civil Society Organisations (CSO) under the NITI AAYOG, Entrepreneurs Associates (EA) has been engaging in community services and reliefs in various parts of the state by handing dry rations and vegetables to needy families. She also thanked the government for enabling them to purchase some rice from FCI Godown helping them to support more people.