This is a June 18, 2020 update to a column done previously, checking in with farmers around the world to understand how they are being impacted by Covid-19, and what they’re doing about it.
United States – Jennie Schmidt
Not much has changed for us from a farming perspective other than wearing masks when we went to get parts or supplies.
We stopped having meetings at the farm office which is also my 81 year old mother-in-law’s house, simply to protect her from visitors bringing germs in with them. Lots of hand washing and social distancing have become the norm.
Shortages of masks became an issue when in early May it was time to plant tomatoes. Our tomato planter is a 6-person planter and there’s no way to sit side by side and be socially distant. Masks that I had ordered in March still had not arrived by May so I purchased bandanas for the crew to wear while on the planter as well as extra gloves, handwashing stations and sanitizer.
When our governor mandated a stay at home order, he noted that agriculture is an essential service and was to remain open. This was fortunate because as we all know, the seasons don’t wait, and when it’s time to plant, it’s time to plant.
To avoid getting in trouble for being out and about, our local extension service drafted “permission slips” for farm workers to keep in their cars in the event that they were pulled over, they would have documentation as to why they were on the road. We revised this letter to include “essential out of state farm errands” because we farm on the Maryland/Delaware state line and Delaware implemented a mandatory quarantine. Many of our farm suppliers are in Delaware and so we added one of these permission slips to each of the farm trucks. To my knowledge, we never had to use any but it was peace of mind in the event that we did. While none of it particularly impacted our farm directly, it did highlight the issues of our “just in time” food system and the backlog that gets created when one part of that pipeline falters.
Cases on June 17, 2020: 2,234,471
Cases/Million population: 6,752
Brazil – Yara de Geus
We farm in northern Brazil. As cases in the country continue to rise, we started to feel the threat a lot closer to us since April 20th. That’s when the first case was confirmed in the town where we usually get our groceries and farm supplies. Since then, the town has confirmed 479 cases. Several of the workers here at the farm live, have relatives, or do business in this town. It’s also a hub for several smaller cities in the area.
Here at the farm (125 miles away from the city) activities continue. However, we have established prevention measures. Everyone wears masks at all times and we have soap and alcohol gel available around the facilities.
We constantly discuss the progress of the disease and ask our workers to ensure their families also take precautions while living in town. Everyone here is very conscious about the risks and we feel it’s a safe place to be.
Cases on June 17, 2020: 960,309
Cases/Million population: 4,519
India – Malwinder Malhi
Typically during this season we are in a labour-intensive process of transplanting paddy. This year those farm labourers are demanding higher wages in order to stay afloat during the COVID-19 lockdown. There has been labour scarcity in Punjab amid coronavirus pandemic. Many migrant workers have returned to their hometowns in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Jharkhand, leading to labour shortage here.
The average labour rate for transplantation of paddy crop was Rs 3,000/acre during the last kharif season, but it has now increased up to Rs 5,000/acre this year.
The farmers of Punjab are now enthusiastically switching over to Direct Seeding of Rice (DSR) instead of traditional transplantation of paddy this year and nearly 25 percent of total area under paddy sowing is expected to come under this innovative technology which will help to reduce cultivation cost in terms of both labour and water. To promote the technology of DSR and motivate the farmers to adopt it in a big way, the State Agriculture and Farmers Welfare Department sanctioned 4,000 DSR machines and 800 paddy transplanting machines to farmers on subsidy ranging from 40% to 50%.
Cases on June 17, 2020: 367,264
Cases/Million population: 266
Spain – Francisco Manuel Fernandez Camas
Covid-19 has not affected us a lot. Our government has left us like a sector that couldn’t stop. In those days, we had very strict rules with our employees like wearing a mask all day because we haven’t any chance to stop our activity. In addition, we had in our country, several police controls. There have been hard days here. Nowadays, the situation is more flexible and we haven’t the same problems as before.
Cases on June 17, 2020: 291,763
Cases/Million population: 6,240
Mexico – Gina Gutierrez
Farmers have shown their resilience during Covid-19, finding new ways to continue to produce food and get it to people. Gina Gutierrez shares her thoughts in this video.
Cases on June 17, 2020: 159,793
Cases/Million population: 1,240
Ghana – Lydia Sasu
The Farmers Organisation Network in Ghana yam farmers in the southern sector had support from CSIR-YIIFWAS to train yam farmers in Yam Set Technology to improve their production and food security during COVID-19. Twenty-eight farm families (14 women and 14 men) and 2 extension officers benefitted. The farmers were introduced to wood ash/chemical for effective sprouting.
We first trained them in social distancing, mask procedures and hand washing for the training.
Cases on June 17, 2020: 12,590
Cases/Million population: 406