Agyakar and Sam Grewal’s family farming business is thriving during COVID-19, but as the pandemic ravages India and devastates their homeland, it is taking a toll on the family.
- The Grewal family use traditional farming methods to create specialty flour
- During COVID-19, the drop in imports has increased demand for their Australian-made products
- The family is worried about family and friends in India as daily cases surge
The Grewal family has been involved in agriculture for generations in India, so when the cousins moved to Australia, they wanted to continue farming and using traditional stone grinding methods learnt from their ancestors to create specialty flour.
They now run a number of farms in Victoria at Mildura where they run a flour mill and grow table and wine grapes, and also at Kinglake where they grow a variety of fruit and vegetables.
Imports dry up
But when imports dried up during the pandemic and demand for their Australian-made products increased, their success has been bittersweet.
“We’ve seen demand increase by 30 per cent in Indian stores, because of the lack of imported products and rising prices,” Agyakar said.
“We do have demands from India because Australian-made products are very popular, but everything is delayed, ships are delayed and borders are closed.
While many of his family members are safe on farms in the countryside, some are stuck inside bustling cities filled with the virus.
The outbreak of the highly infectious Indian coronavirus variant has seen hospitals run out of beds and oxygen, and has left morgues and crematoriums overflowing.
“There’s no oxygen,” Agyakar said.
“People aren’t wanting to go to the hospitals, they aren’t trusting the government, they aren’t trusting the health system, they want to manage everything at home.
Agyakar said the explosion of coronavirus cases in India was in part due to the fact lockdowns could not be implemented.
“They’re saying 20 million cases on the government records, but I’m thinking it’s much more than that,” he said.
“They don’t have support from the government, so they have to walk daily to eat.”
Love of farming
When the cousins first moved to Victoria they both drove taxis, but their love of farming and attachment to home drew them back into the paddocks.
“And we also have a wheat flour mill, and make Indian flour like they do at home with a stone grind.
“When you cook the bread, Indian bread is called chapati, you need a specific type of flour with gluten.”
Agyakar said while travel has been banned and borders are closed, many Indian customers are happy to eat his products.
“Our customers are grateful,” he said.