Farmers, officers tread cautiously

Farmers, officers tread cautiously

Parvesh Sharma

THE coronavirus scare has hit farming, piggery and other allied occupations. The outbreak has also delayed training camps for farmers in various fields, even as officers concerned say they have been offering help to farmers to allay their fears.

“Coronavirus has caused heavy losses to us despite the fact that it has no connection with poultry. But since the officers concerned have failed to disseminate authentic information, we are compelled to sell chicken at the rate of Rs 25 per kg against the cost of Rs 90 and eggs at the rate of Rs 2.80 apiece against the cost of Rs 4.25. Officers are only asking us to avoid crowds,” says Rajesh Garg, president of the Punjab Poultry Farmers’ Association.

A cross-section of farmers involved in pig rearing and poultry confirmed that so far neither had any officer approached them to make them aware of coronavirus nor had they been provided literature on the matter.

“We are reading contradictory statements of experts on social media about coronavirus. Some says use onions with salt, while others say use lemon. But in the absence of scientific and official information, it’s adding to our confusion,” says Kartar Singh, a farmer from Bhawanigarh in Sangrur district.

Kulwinder Singh, a farmer from Changal village, says officers of the animal husbandry department are not keen to organise training camps for poultry, piggery etc. in view of the Covid scare.

Sangrur Deputy Director Dr KG Goyal stated that they had not organised any training camp for farmers this month.

“We have put off the camps to avoid mass gatherings. Our officers have been visiting various villages and offering help to people to save them from falling into the trap of quacks,” says Goyal.

Dr Inderjeet Singh, Director, Animal Husbandry, Punjab, confirmed that their department had postponed some training camps for farmers.

Veterinary Officer Dr Vikas Kumar, posted at Innovative Pig Breeding Centre, Nabha, says the virus has caused panic among owners of pig farms. “There is no confirmed connection between pig farming and coronavirus, but still worried farmers are approaching us. We have been providing guidance to farmers through special training sessions about how to maintain hygienic conditions to prevent diseases,” he said.

Sham Singh, an owner of a pig farm in Ropar, says only those who have not received proper training before starting pig farming are worried. “During training, the authorities give us information on how to maintain hygienic conditions on the farms and prevent diseases with timely vaccination. I have been running two pig farms without a hitch for the past four years,” he says.

Punjab Agricultural University (PAU) has also postponed all its upcoming kisan melas for the kharif season. “PAU and Agriculture Department fairs are like training camps. Farmers get information about latest techniques and can also share the problems they faced during the last crop season. But just postponing the fairs would not help in raising awareness about coronavirus,” said Sukhchain Singh, a farmer.

Dr Mandeep Singh, Deputy Director, Agriculture Technology Management Agency, says, “Generally, we start our fairs by the end of March, but till date we have not received the final dates. Coronavirus may delay our training sessions also.”

Gulab Singh, a farmer from Handiaya area of Barnala district, says the attack of armyworm and pink stem borer on wheat sown without burning paddy stubble has caused losses to farmers. “The Punjab Government registered FIRs, arrested farmers and pressured them to not burn stubble. But the sowing of wheat without burning stubble has caused problems to farmers and now the government has put off the fairs rather than offering solutions,” he rues.

Director, Agriculture, Punjab, Sutantar Kumar Airi, says there is no reason to panic, adding that they would hold training camps in warmer weather so as to negate the effect of coronavirus.

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