India:Karnataka farmers returns to barter system amid corona crisis

By Shrinivasa M, Times of India 

Mysuru, Karnataka: While city-dwellers turn to delivery apps and e-tailers to source supplies, villagers in Old Mysuru region have revived an age-old system of commercial exchange — barter — to ensure they get their millet’s worth of rice or milk and curd as it may be.
A week into the lockdown, the villages decided to trade foodgrains, millets, vegetables, milk and milk products to ensure each household got what it needed. “In rural areas, most families are running out of cash. So we decided to barter goods, instead,” said Badagalapura Nagendra, state president of Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha and Hasiru Sene. “In Kyathanahalli, Jinnahalli and Halanahalli in HD Kote taluk, for instance, farmers are exchanging goods and services,” he added.

Those without goods offer labour in exchangeThe trend soon travelled to other villages as well as cash began to dwindle. Both organisations, he said, urged villagers to barter goods during the lockdown so no one struggled to fulfil basic needs.
“Those who have grown paddy exchange it for the same quantity of finger millet (ragi), the two staple foods of this region. They use the winnowing basket to decide the quantity,” said Nagendra. “Vegetables grown by farmers, grocery items, milk and milk products are exchanged according to prevailing rates. Those who have no goods to exchange offer labour, doing small jobs around the household in return for a commodity.”
Raitha Sangha Mysuru district unit president TR Vidyasagar, a resident of Nanjanagud, said, “This system has been picked up by neighbouring villages too. Due to the lockdown and plummeting prices of vegetables, farmers don’t have cash. So naturally, it became popular here.” The temple town of Nanjangud is under a complete shutdown following 12 employees of a pharma firm testing positive for Covid-19.
Between Nanjangud and HD Kote, there are over 400 villages and the barter system is catching on, said Nagendra.
For more than a week now, villagers have not been able to visit ATMs in nearby towns due to the lockdown. “The Karnataka Milk Federation pays milk suppliers once a week by depositing money in their bank accounts. But due to the lockdown, that money is not accessible now,” said Vidyasagar.
Besides dairy and farming, villagers supply and sell fruits, vegetables and flowers in nearby towns. “All these activities are affected by the lockdown and there is no ready income. The paddy and ragi procurement amount is also yet to be deposited. Since there is little to no supply of agricultural produce and products from villages to the city now, farmers don’t have cash in hand,” said Nagendra.