Bengaluru: The 21-day lockdown across India to contain the Covid-19 pandemic has hit Karnataka's vibrant rural economy hard. Milk producers, sericulturists, flower cultivators, fruit and vegetable growers and many others who survive on daily income are facing unspeakable difficulties in almost every district of the state.
Karnataka is the second largest milk producer after Gujarat in India. The state-run dairy behemoth Karnataka Milk Federation (KMF) collection centres at many villages have stopped functioning due to a huge drop in demand.
The producers who survive on selling milk to the KMF are dumping thousands of litres into tanks, lakes and even rivers.
Nagaraja, a milk producer from the Shimoga district, said that there was no demand for milk as all commercial activities had come to a complete halt. "Our collection centre is not taking our milk. Says there is no demand. We survive on daily income. Situation is getting worse," he told News18 over telephone.
Producers are demanding that the KMF should collect milk and turn it into dairy products for future to save them from going bankrupt.
The flower cultivators of Karnataka are also facing the same problem. The state is the largest cultivator of flowers in India and planeloads of freshly cut flowers are exported to West Asia and Europe, daily. Flowers are also exported to the rest of India including Delhi.
Since there is no demand, helpless flower cultivators are destroying their produce in the field.
The fruit and vegetable growers are facing a similar crisis. Several districts around Bengaluru grow fruits and vegetables on a large scale. These are exported to other states after meeting the local demand.
Since most restaurants are shut and weddings have been stopped, the demand has come down drastically forcing the farmers to dump their crops in the field itself.
The non-availability of transportation is also adding to their woes as 50% small farmers depend on public transport to ferry their goods to nearby markets.
Karnataka is also India's largest silk-growing state. The sericulturists have not been able to sell their produce as it does not come under essential goods.
Even the tender coconut growers are finding it difficult to sell their produce as no commercial activity is taking place.
The leaders of the opposition parties, Siddaramaiah and HD Kumaraswamy, have demanded that the state government must act quickly to prevent the farmers going bankrupt.
However, the state government maintains that it is trying to help the rural economy.