tirsdag 7. april 2020

Will coronavirus lockdown cause food shortages in India?

On 31 March, Asia's biggest onion market fell silent. The market in Lasangaon in the western Indian state of Maharashtra usually thrums with farmers and traders. But the mostly migrant men and women who unload, load and grade onions - an essential part of the diet of millions of Indians - are missing.

The market, which accounts for a third of India's onion produce, managed to stumble along for nearly a week after India imposed a harsh 21-day lockdown, and suspended bus, train and air travel to prevent the spread of coronavirus. But the lockdown also led to an unprecedented exodus of workers from their places of work, to their homes in far-flung villages all over the country. Farmers were still able to go to their fields and pluck onions after the government made it clear that agriculture was an essential service. And a few workers had stayed back to keep the Lasangaon market running.

But then came a news report that one person had tested positive for Covid-19 in the neighbourhood, and panic set in. The day the market stalled, some 450 tonnes of onions were waiting to be transported all over India as well as to the port in Mumbai for export.