Rural Economy: A Potential Sector Needs Urgent Revival

The COVID pandemic has resulted in one of the worst financial conditions. Manufacturing units are closed up, demand has plummeted, and job losses are seen across the sectors. The Union Finance Ministry has estimated that GDP will shrink 4.5 percent within the current year.

However, hope has arisen from rural India as the agriculture sector seems to possess been relatively less stricken by the pandemic and consequent lockdown. Rural India never really went into a severe lockdown and thus harvested, procurement and consumer activity have remained more or less identical. Thus while GDP will decline, a rate of growth of two.5 percent is projected for agriculture this yr. In 2019-20 agriculture grew by 4% due to record production of food grains supported by good rains and a recovery in prices of non-perishables.

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An unfortunate consequence of the lockdown was the loss of jobs in urban areas, forcing thousands of migrants, mostly factory workers, and construction sector informal workers, to return directly under extremely difficult circumstances. They were willing to figure for lower wages in rural India providing cheaper labor in April for harvesting wheat. Thus revival in agriculture somewhat supported the loss of incomes of labor in the urban sector.

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This has been in the course of direct benefit transfers and food security programs. The Union government has also announced measures to enhance agriculture marketing by removing restrictions on APMC procurement and fixing cold storage for agro-processing units. Moreover, government procurement of food grains went on at a high minimum support price (federal procurement of wheat at minimum support prices (MSP) is at an all-time high of 38 million tonnes.)

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Some of the measures consequently have resulted in a surge in rural demand. While the car sector the slumped within the urban sector, tractor sales within the domestic market registered 4% growth year on year. Besides this, the sales of fertilizers and pesticides also went up indicating the robustness of the agricultural demand. because of spillover income, other goods (like motorcycle sales) have also gone up. Even health, wellness, hygiene, and immunity boosting products have witnessed an excellent demand in rural India. States like Punjab, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Assam, province, Telangana, and Karnataka witnessed growth in GST collection in June over last year.

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Yet there are some challenges that rural India will affect if it’s to witness a resurgence. With lockdown affecting supply chains for ages, those that were cultivating perishable items such as vegetables faced serious losses and even floriculturists suffered as demand dried up (lack of weddings or other ceremonies and celebrations). Locusts moving towards farmlands in rural areas will be a significant threat to standing crops. Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has asked India to get on high alert for the next four weeks for the works locust attack in 26 years. of these factors will need to be kept in mind and a few compensation or remedy must be found if the rural economy is to herald the economic revival.