Srinagar: COVID-19 lockdown notwithstanding, Jammu and Kashmir government has allowed farmers to resume normal agricultural activities for the forthcoming Kharif season.
“We cannot afford losing cropping season. It will be a catastrophe if agriculture operations are not allowed. Yes, one needs to take precautions. We are already fighting COVID. We cannot afford hunger and food grain shortage,” Altaf Aijaz Andrabi, Director of Agriculture Department Kashmir, told The Kashmir Monitor.
The agriculture department has issued fresh advisory listing dos and don’ts for farmers while sowing paddy saplings this season. From maintaining social distance to using face masks and gloves, the department has asked farmers to take all precautions while ploughing land and planting saplings.
“Facemasks are mandatory. Though COVID is not transmitted through water, gloves are necessary because one is not sure about the farmland,” he said.
Officials are currently touring different villages to advise farmers about the precautions to be taken while preparing fields for the Kharif season.
“Officials have so far visited 2000 villages across Kashmir. They are trying to create awareness among the farming community. We have already asked people to maintain five feet distance while sowing paddy. Sowing may take some more time, but it is important,” said Andrabi.
Amid lockdown, farmers have almost completed vegetable cultivation across the valley. “Vegetable cultivation is almost over. We too have completed cultivation in our nurseries at Budgam and Ganderbal,” he said.
Official figures reveal that around 3.15 lakh hectares of land are under cultivation of different agriculture crops. Of which around 1.41 lakh hectares of land is under paddy cultivation. Nearly 80,000 hectares of land are under maize cultivation and another 30000 hectares are under vegetable cultivation. Around 29,000 hectares of land are under fodder while 20,000 hectares are under pulses cultivation.
Jammu and Kashmir is a food deficit union territory. Every year the government imports 7.7 lakh metric tonnes of food grains from different states to meet the demand.
Kashmir produces around nine lakh metric tonnes of food grains annually which are 23 percent less than the requirement. The valley imports over around 2.5 lakh metric tonnes of food grains to meet the demand.