Smallholder farmers are a crucial part of the food value chain in India, as well as a
critical element of the global food system. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought new
risks that threaten livelihoods as well as food security
As part of its COVID-19 Response Program, WBCSD has launched a Vital Supply
Chains Project focusing on Food Systems Security.
India is home to about 120 million smallholder farmers who contribute over 40% of the
country’s grain production, and over half of its fruits, vegetables, oilseeds and other
crops. Much of the global share of food staples come from India, and almost half of the
population in India depends on agriculture for their livelihood.
Every year, Indian farmers face risks from nature. But risks from the COVID-19
pandemic are putting new challenges in front of a sector that is already under threat.
The nationwide lockdown came at an unfortunate time for farmers, as it was the harvest
season lead to shortage of workers.
In addition, it was estimated that although India’s food bank had more than three times
the minimum operational buffer in stock, supply and access is a critical issue.
ITC’s Agribusiness team has been responding to the situation by using its digital
advisory application “e-choupal” to procure produce to provide information and demand
Another issue that is cause for concern is the availability and access to seeds, fertilizers
and pesticides for the next crop season. It reduce farther crop production.
The COVID-19 crisis is not permanent, but it has magnified the vulnerabilities already
present in the food system in India.
An impending healthcare crisis in rural India
The pandemic has also highlighted the potential public health crisis awaiting rural India
and farming communities.
Basic preventive measures such as regular handwashing, social distancing and self-
isolation pose a unique challenge for rural communities.
In addition, social distancing and isolation are a huge challenge for farming communities
who rely on daily labor and wages for their subsistence.
As we build the “new normal”, be innovative in our thinking, and ensure that our efforts
to rebuild are sensitive to the needs and circumstances of smallholder farmers.