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Today's important COVID-19 news in the fresh produce sector

Corona-update: Specialty crop growers in Texas’ Rio Grande Valley face significant problems

In today’s article, we see how specialty crop growers in Texas’ Rio Grande Valley are facing significant problems due to disruptions and market losses; we also take a look at more impacts for growers in Florida. On a more humorous note, we can enjoy footballer Ronaldo’s own ‘fruit toss’, where he decides his daily chores.

In India, Delhi market traders want to move to more open grounds after one of their own from the Azadpur wholesale vegetable market died. In the same vein, the lockdown really leaves Bihar’s litchi growers in the lurch, while a clash broke out between police personnel and a group of vegetable vendors in the Uttar Pradesh and vendors in Agartala are touting the slogan: ‘No Mask, No Vegetables’.

This news, and more, in today’s Corona-virus update.


Market troubles & low prices force Texans to plow under crops 
Specialty crop growers in the Rio Grande Valley are facing significant problems due to COVID-19 disruptions and market losses, said a Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service expert.

Luis Ribera, an AgriLife Extension economist in College Station, said crops are being destroyed because they have no place to go, and prices have dropped due to high supplies and much lower demand. Ribera said specialty crops ranging from citrus to onions have taken a hit during the COVID-19 pandemic. But how much remains to be seen.

The Agricultural and Food Policy Center at Texas A&M University has identified COVID-19 relief most applicable to farmers and ranchers. This is available online at agrilifetoday.tamu.edu.

Like many other agriculture sectors, the virus has disrupted traditional supply lines and market demands. The closure of schools and demand reduction by restaurants has put some commercial fruit and vegetable growers in a tough spot.

US growers see impacts from Corona-virus
Volusia County native John Hoblick was elected to represent his district on the Florida Farm Bureau State Board of Directors before being elected to serve as Florida Farm Bureau President in 2006. It’s a role he has held continuously since then, and as this week’s On the Spot guest, he provides a firsthand look at what Florida’s agriculture community is facing.

In the spring, Florida growers are completing their harvest of winter vegetables, including peppers, cabbage, celery, eggplant, snap beans, tomatoes and squash, among a list of fresh foods. Some varieties of oranges, grapefruit and tangerines are also still being harvested. Consumers can expect to find Florida blueberries, cantaloupe and watermelon at grocery stores soon.

Farmers and ranchers continue to produce an abundance of food even in the midst of the national public health emergency. Their hard work and dedication to their calling keep a steady supply of nutrition available.

Ronaldo uses fruit for the toss to decide on daily chores
Winner of the “Golden ball” and former striker of Real Madrid and the Brazilian national team, Ronaldo, starred in a humorous video on the theme of isolation.

Accompanied by the anthem of the Champions League, Ronaldo on the kitchen held a draw, similar to the procedure followed for the football league. Using tangerines and apples for this purpose, the former striker broke them into two baskets, where they landed decided the job. According to the draw, the Brazilian went to wash the dishes.

Click here to view the clip.

“It was a tough draw,” Ronaldo wrote in the comments under the video.

India: Call to shift trade to open grounds after trader dies
The authorities have sealed a part of the Azadpur wholesale vegetable market in Delhi, which feeds large parts of northern India, after a trader who tested positive for Covid-19 died last Tuesday.

But Adil Ahmad Khan, chairman of Azadpur APMC, said this will not impact supplies as trading continues in other parts of the market with necessary precautions. “We have sealed the area. The District Magistrate North has been told about the issue. We will be following the mandated guidelines for precautionary measure at the mandi.”

Lockdown leaves Bihar’s litchi growers in the lurch
The prolonged lockdown to contain COVID-19 has put Bihar’s more than 45,000 litchi farmers in a bind as they stare at imminent losses amounting to almost ₹10 billon (€120 mln) this year. Bihar, especially Muzaffarpur district, accounts for almost 40% of the total litchi production in the country.

“Last year our litchi business was severely hit by rumours that its consumption leads to encephalitis which caused the deaths of children,” litchi farmer Bhola Nath Jha said. “And this year, the prolonged lockdown is threatening huge losses for us…we appeal to the government to look at our problem immediately,” he added. Mr. Jha owns several large litchi orchards with 600 trees in north Bihar’s Muzaffarpur district. Litchi is grown on more than 32,000 hectares of land in the State with annual production totalling to about 300,000 tonnes.

Uttar Pradesh veg traders attack cops trying to enforce curbs
A clash broke out between police personnel and a group of vegetable vendors in the UP’s Aligarh on Wednesday over enforcement of lockdown in the district. A group of vegetable sellers in the city’s Bhujpura area clashed with the police and pelted stones after they were asked to remove their carts at the expiry of the relaxation hours at 10 am. One cop was injured.

The district administration has given a four-hour relaxation in the lockdown and allowed limited sale of essential commodities between 6am and 10 am. However, enforcing the lockdown after expiry of the relaxation hours has not been easy. In one such incident, local residents claimed an 18-year-old vegetable vendor was beaten up by the cops for violating the lockdown a few days ago in Aligarh’s Jalalpur area. He succumbed to his wounds on Wednesday.

Following the clash, DM CB Singh said that no vegetable vendor would be allowed in the area from Thursday and residents could buy vegetables from the Numaish ground area, which is around 5 km from the city. He said an FIR has been registered against 34 vegetable vendors for allegedly violating lockdown rules and attacking policemen on duty.

Agartala vendors: ‘No Mask, No Vegetables’
India’s federal government, in an order issued a few days back, made masks mandatory for anyone who ventures out of their houses for any purpose. Following this mandate, vegetable vendors in Agartala recently had put up posters which say ‘No Mask, No Vegetables’.

This has led to people to wear masks while they venture out to buy vegetables. The same tactics have been used previously by the petrol pumps as well and petrol pumps across Agartala putting up posters with ‘No Masks, No Fuel’ written over it.

“We are with the administration as they are working hard to aware the people regarding the importance of masks,” said a vegetable vendor.

Philippines: Dept of Agriculture partners with private sector buying farmers’ produce
More companies and institutional buyers are partnering with the Department of Agriculture (DA) in buying harvests from local food producers.

DA Secretary William Dar cited that the department will enter into an undertaking with the Agri Nurture Inc. to buy more quantities of farmers’ harvests on a regular basis. “We look forward to the positive support and assistance that they can provide to our local food producers who have been affected by the enforcement of the enhanced community quarantine.”

Kadiwa ni Ani at Kita is a marketing program of the DA, where farm products are bought on a wholesale basis from farmers and retailed to consumers on affordable prices in Metro Manila and other urban areas nationwide.

Jamaica: Fresh vegetables for Portmore
Minister of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries Audley Shaw is assuring residents of Portmore, St.Catherine that there will be more than enough fresh fruits and vegetables on offer at affordable prices come this Saturday, April 25, when the community will again have a shopping day (although under COVID-19 restrictions).

The Minister made the declaration on Tuesday (April 21) during a TV interview, as he addressed farmers and the nation on measures being under taken by the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries (MICAF), to stem the fallout being experienced by farmers from the closure of hotels, schools and other market channels due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the increased demand by householders and distributors.

The Minister further explained that as an immediate response to the fallout, the Government has provided $240 M as part of its Production Incentive Programme to redistribute the excess produce from farmers as the country.

Maharashtra mango traders faced with 60% losses this season
The Covid-19 pandemic has broken the supply chain of the Alphonso mango trade of the coastal Konkan region, which is now facing losses worth tens of millions of rupees. The trade has been severely hit due to unavailability of labour and export via aircraft called off due to the global lockdown.

An estimate, drawn by mango farmers, wholesale and retail traders, pegs the losses of the industry at 50 to 60% of the normal annual income. Income from exports has also been reduced to 10 to 15% of the income every year, said traders.

The Alphonso mango grows only during the summer months between mid-April and June. It is sold, not only as a fruit, but also in a variety of packaged forms such as pickles, juices, ice-cream flavours, syrup, and forms an ingredient in many Maharashtrian sweets.

Alphonso mangoes to enter Goa in ‘Kisan rath’
In a bid to help farmers transport their produce to traders, India Post is using its fleet to bridge this gap during the lockdown. Following the Covid-19 outbreak, farmers faced the prospect of their produce going to waste given the nationwide lockdown, which is extended till May 3.

Coming to their rescue, the department of posts has started sourcing mangoes from Ratnagiri to satiate people's summer cravings. The 'Kisan Rath' departed on Tuesday from Ratnagiri to Vashi in Mumbai carrying 31 tonnes of Alphonso mangoes.

The farmers of Ratnagiri will be supplying about three tonnes of harvest every alternate day and the postal department is going to deploy the vehicles to transport the mangoes to Mumbai. While there is no request from the Goan mango farmers or fruit traders yet, any agricultural produce of substantial quantity can be transported to the markets, the postmaster general of Goa, N. Vinodkumar said.


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