Govt pushes for agri exports as domestic markets shut amid lockdown
As farmers in the country find it tough to sell their produce during the lockdown, the agriculture ministry has initiated efforts to increase the export from the country. The major markets in Mumbai and many other cities are largely shut at present. Organised retailers such as Reliance Retail, D-Mart, Big Basket and Tata Star Bazaar are the major procurers of the farm produce at this time, besides the fragmented unorganised players.
"Almost 70-80 per cent of the farm produce is not reaching the customers now. So the farmers are either delaying the harvest or dumping it after finding no buyers," says a trader in the APMC market in Navi Mumbai.
Agriculture ministry secretary Sanjay Agarwal held talks with the exporters of agri and allied commodities to enhance exports during COVID-19 crisis. The exporters and representatives of associations of producers of agri commodities such as fruits, vegetables, basmati and non-basmati rice, seeds, flowers, plants, organic produce, agriculture equipment and machinery, participated in a video conferencing with the secretary on Monday.
The exporters highlighted issues such as shortage of labour, inter-state transport bottlenecks, shortage of raw materials due to closure of mandis, phyto-sanitary certification and closure of courier services, thereby hampering movement of shipping documents, non-availability of freight services, access to ports and clearance of goods for imports and exports.
The representatives of industries relating to food processing, spices, cashew nuts and machine and equipment sectors requested for permission to operate at least 25-30 per cent of their strength. The issue of internal transport is being addressed by the Ministry of Home Affairs and necessary directives are being issued.
Agarwal said the issues pertaining to port, ocean freight services and courier services will be considered for necessary resolution.
India is a net exporter of agricultural and allied commodities. India's agricultural and allied exports during 2018-19 were Rs 2.73 lakh crore and the sector has always been positive in balance of trade. Previously, exports have resulted into increased production in the agriculture sector.
Lockdown Till May 3, Says PM
Prime Minister Narendra Modi today extended till May 3 the current lockdown to control the spread of coronavirus in India and said the restrictions could be reviewed for the least affected parts of the country on April 20.
"After taking into account all suggestions, we have decided to extend the lockdown till May 3," PM Modi said in his 25-minute address shortly after India crossed the 10,000-mark in COVID-19 cases.
"Till April 20, each district, each state will be monitored closely to see whether the lockdown is being followed. Then we can decide on relaxing the restrictions," said the Prime Minister, who used a traditional red and white "gamcha" or cloth towel as a mask before beginning his address.
Some essential activities could be allowed after April 20 in parts of the country that showed some improvement in fighting the infection, he explained. The government will put out detailed guidelines tomorrow on the lockdown.
"We absolutely must ensure that this virus does not spread to any further parts of the country. We should be worried every time we hear that someone in some part of the country has died of the virus. We must ensure that new hotspots do not spring up."
India has 10,363 COVID-19 cases and there have been 339 deaths, according to the latest Health Ministry data.
India was in much better shape than many major countries in the fight against coronavirus, said the Prime Minister. "If the country had not taken a holistic, integrated approach and had not acted fast, then it is frightening to think what it would have been like today," he said.
Asserting the need for a strict lockdown to ensure that COVID-19 did not spread to a single new area, the PM said citizens had persevered and confronted every difficulty to ensure that India was ahead in the fight against the virus. "The power of 'We The People Of India' has been seen in the country during the lockdown," he said.
He also put out a seven-point charter for people to follow, which included social distancing, taking care of the elderly and the poor, protecting jobs and preventing attacks on doctors and other frontline COVID-19 workers.
Over the past few days, there was speculation about the removal of certain restrictions to restart the economy, which was already in a record slump and has taken a big hit in the coronavirus shutdown. With industries, shops and factories closing down, thousands in the unorganized sector have been left without jobs.
PM Modi offered no immediate economic package but said he felt the pain of "our poor brothers and sisters", with thousands of families struggling for food and many migrant workers unable to reach their villages.
During his meeting with 13 Chief Ministers on Saturday, PM Modi had agreed that a longer lockdown was necessary to fight the highly contagious COVID-19, but had talked about saving livelihoods as well as lives.
"Jaan bhi, jahaan bhi (both life and economy are important)," he told the Chief Ministers, compared to what he had said three weeks ago while announcing the total nationwide lockdown - "Jaan hai toh jahaan hai (the world exists if life exists)."
Some ministries like Commerce and Industries suggested that select sectors be allowed to reopen with reasonable safeguards to protect wages and to boost economic activity.
The PM said social distancing and the lockdown had been immensely beneficial in the fight to control the rapid spread of the virus.
"Yes, economically, we have paid a great price for it, but from the point of view of saving human lives, it has been a significant step," he said.
51 Coronavirus Deaths In India In 24 Hours, Highest Jump Yet
324 people have died of coronavirus in India with 51 deaths in the last 24 hours, making it the sharpest spike yet. The highly infectious novel coronavirus or COVID-19 has infected 9,352 people in the country, according to the latest data from the Union Health Ministry. Union Ministers and officers returned to their officers at their ministries today, nearly a month after the government issued work from home protocols. The government, meanwhile, has revealed a plan to colour-code all districts in the country during the extended period of the lockdown- red for areas with over 15 positive cases, orange for those below that threshold and green for districts that have not reported any infection. PM Modi will address the nation tomorrow at 10 am on the lockdown, after requests from states to extend it.
Here are the top 10 updates on coronavirus in India:
1. The colour coding is likely to result in almost half the country being coloured either orange or red, after it emerged on Sunday that over 50 per cent of all districts have reported COVID-19 cases. 364 districts have been affected by the outbreak currently; this number was 284 on April 6 and 160 on March 29.
2. During his meeting with the Chief Ministers, PM Modi had indicated that the nationwide lockdown would be extended by two weeks but that there will be relaxations in certain areas and cases to ensure the survival of the economy as well.
3. States that have the most coronavirus cases are Maharashtra (1,985), Delhi (1,154), Tamil Nadu (1,075), Rajasthan (804) and Madhya Pradesh (532) ad Gujarat (516).
4. In Delhi, 10 new coronavirus hotspots were announced on Sunday evening, taking the total number of hotspots in the national capital to 43.
5. The move to resume work in ministries is in line with the centre's change in strategy to deal with the COVID-19 crisis - to one that emphasises both protection of lives and the economy. Union Ministers Prakash Javadekar, DV Sadananda Gowda, Arjun Munda and Kiren Rijiju were some of the early office-goers.
6. Senior officials entitled to official transports, i.e., from the rank of Joint Secretary and above, will report to work as usual from today, sources said, adding that a third of all essential staff had to be present. Junior officials will continue to work on rotation basis. Each ministry has also been told to plan for post-lockdown and come up with ideas to kick-start the economy.
7. More than one-third of the total number of coronavirus cases in India is linked to a religious gathering in Delhi last month, which has been identified as a hotspot for the spread of the highly contagious coronavirus.
8. The coronavirus pandemic and the nationwide lockdown has put a severe stress on the economy. The World Bank has predicted that India will see growth of just 1.5-2.8 per cent in its current financial year -- down from an expected 4.8-5.0 per cent for the year just ended. The International Monetary Fund, one of the world's biggest financial institutions, also warned of a global recession, and said the pandemic is causing an economic crisis unlike any in the past century and will require a massive response to ensure recovery.
9. The United States recorded 1,514 deaths related to the coronavirus pandemic over the past 24 hours, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University. The US also leads the world by far in the number of confirmed infections, with 5,55,313 cases by the Baltimore-based university's count.
10. The virus which originated in central China's Wuhan last year has so far infected more than 1.5 million worldwide.
2 More Weeks Of COVID-19 Lockdown, PM Modi And States Agree
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who held a four-hour meet with at least 13 chief ministers on video conference today, has indicated that the lockdown amid the COVID-19 pandemic would be extended by two weeks after considering the requests of the chief ministers, who preferred a longer containment period. The lockdown was scheduled to end on Tuesday. PM Modi also marked a shift in tackling the pandemic, from saving lives to saving both lives and the economy. Three weeks ago, while announcing the lockdown, PM Modi had said, "Jaan hai toh jahaan hai (the world exists if life exists)." Towards the end of the meeting today, however, he stressed on "Jaan bhi jahaan bhi (both life and economy are important)" as the lockdown has put severe stress on businesses.
Here's your 10-point cheatsheet to this story:
1. "PM has taken correct decision to extend lockdown. Today, India's position is better than many developed countries because we started lockdown early. If it is stopped now, all gains would be lost. To consolidate, it is imp to extend it," Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal tweeted minutes after the meeting.
2. Most chief ministers who attended the video conference pointed out that they may not have the massive resources needed to deal with a spurt in COVID-19 cases if the lockdown is removed sooner. The chief ministers asked the centre for relief packages.
3. "Extend the lockdown. We're not short on infrastructure to deal with coronavirus, but the question is of implementing policies effectively. PM Modi has always welcomed the suggestions of states," Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan said.
4. "It is important to extend the nation-wide lockdown... We need a common relief policy for rabi (winter) crop," Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot said. West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said the lockdown extension should be done in a "humane and practical" manner, adding the economy of her state has suffered.
5. PM Modi is likely to give a televised address to the nation again to announce the lockdown extension. At the end of the four-hour meet today, PM Modi said he will allow industries and construction work to reopen in a graded manner. Other restrictions are also likely to be eased in a graded manner and another economic package for farmers is expected.
6. PM Modi indicated that farmers would be allowed to sell to consumers directly from their fields if wholesale vegetable markets or mandis are shut down. For example, the mandis in Mumbai and Pune are closed. This direct selling will be needed to feed a nation of 1.3 billion and prevent inflationary trends, sources said.
7. The Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC) Act that governs how mandis function will be amended to enable farmers to skip the supply chain and reach consumers directly, sources said.
8. Odisha and Punjab have already announced an extension of the lockdown. The Bihar government in a letter to the centre has raised no objection to extending the lockdown; however, it wants an exception for rural construction and flood relief work to continue, sources have told NDTV. Bihar saw massive floods last year and rebuilding projects are still going on.
9. The highly infectious COVID-19 has killed 239 people in the country, with 40 new deaths reported in the last 24 hours. The total number of positive coronavirus cases is now 7,447.
10. The highest number of cases has been reported from Maharashtra, with 1,574 people testing positive for the novel coronavirus that was first detected in China in December. A novel virus is one that has not been previously identified in humans.
Coronavirus: UK announces 12 additional flights to rescue stranded citizens in India
The UK government, on Friday, announced an additional 12 charter flights to repatriate 3,000 Britishers, stranded in India amid lockdown. UK High Commission said that 12 charter flights will rescue Britons from South India, including Bengaluru, Chennai, Hyderabad, Kochi, and Thiruvananthapuram.
The 12 additional flights planned next week for London will cover Amritsar on April 13, 17 and 19; Ahmedabad on April 13 and 15; Goa on April 14 and 16 with an additional one via Mumbai on April 18; Thiruvananthapuram via Kochi on April 15; Hyderabad via Ahmedabad on April 17; Kolkata via Delhi on April 19; and Chennai via Bengaluru on April 20.
The announcement comes days after the UK High Commission said seven charter flights will bring back its nationals from Mumbai, Delhi, and Goa. With this, a total of 5,000 Britishers will be taken back to their homes in 19 charter flights.
Yesterday, the first charter flight from India reached London, carrying 317 British nationals.
"Over 300 people arrived from Goa on Thursday morning, 1,400 more will arrive over the Easter weekend and these 12 flights next week will bring back thousands more," said Tariq Ahmad, UK Minister of State for South Asia and the Commonwealth in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO).
To book flights and register their details, British nationals are asked to use the city-specific webpages listed on the FCO's India Travel Advice page. The FCO added that those who are eligible to fly will be sent information on how to get to airports and flight itineraries directly when their seat is confirmed. Details regarding luggage allowance, flight costs and carriers will be available on the booking portal.
Besides India, British travellers have been repatriated from the Philippines, Ecuador, Bolivia, Nepal, Ghana, Tunisia, Algeria and Peru.