As the Russian-Ukrainian conflict raises concerns over soaring crude oil prices, farmers in Punjab stock up on fuel for the upcoming wheat harvest season.
Long lines of tractors, with fuel storage tanks, were seen at petrol stations in rural areas of the southern region of Malwa on Saturday.
Russia and Ukraine are the world’s main suppliers of crude oil, with buyers in Asia and the Middle East. Russia is the third largest oil producer and the second largest oil exporter. India is the world’s third largest oil consumer and depends on imports to meet 85% of its needs. Imported oil is transformed into products such as gasoline, diesel and LPG. The evolution of petrol and diesel prices in India is directly influenced by the price of crude oil on the international market.
Diesel consumption by farmers increases dramatically during the harvest season, which usually starts from the second week of April in Punjab.
Kulwinder Sandhu, who owns a petrol pump in Faridkot, said there was a sudden surge in demand for diesel among farmers. “Our sale of diesel has increased by about five times a day and the pump has dried up. We are now waiting for a recharge. Farmers fear diesel prices will see a jump due to the situation between Russia and Ukraine. So they stock up for the harvest season,” he said.
Mandeep Singh, a farmer from Golewala village in Faridkot who was waiting his turn at a gas station, said: “The harvest season is a month away. We need a large amount of diesel during this period. So we buy diesel early and store it before the government raises tariffs. Otherwise, it will increase our expenses and agriculture is already a low profit sector.
Kuldeep Singh of Talwandi Sabo in Bathinda said he was growing wheat on 50 acres.
“Hundreds of liters of diesel will be consumed by combines and tractors during the season. Even a small price increase will turn into big losses for us. So I started stockpiling diesel to save as much as possible,” he said.
The project manager of the Agricultural Technology Management Agency (ATMA), Faridkot, Amandeep Keshav, said that the increase in fuel prices has a direct impact on the cost of production. This is the reason for panic among farmers. “However, until there is an official announcement of a hike, it is only speculation,” he added.