It’s seven in the morning. Traders and commission agents have just started auctioning Kashmiri apples at Asia’s biggest fruit and vegetable mandi. Aman Kohli, a second-generation commission agent, says the open auctions, which help traders discover wholesale prices, have been a ritual for many years now. Even representatives from large retailers like Big Bazaar and Reliance Fresh are waiting to purchase stock at the 76-acre market.
More than six months after the delisting of fruits and vegetables from the Agriculture Produce Marketing Committee (APMC) Act, it’s business as usual at Azadpur mandi. Traders say there’s no dip in the quantity traded here after the Delhi government, through a September 2014 notification, delisted fruits and vegetables from the ambit of the APMC markets located in Azadpur and two sub-mandis located at Keshopur and Shahdara.
In December 2013, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi had asked all states under the party’s rule to delist fruits and vegetables from the purview of the APMC so that farmers could sell their produce freely. The actual delisting, however, was done in September 2014. Then, Delhi was under President’s rule and the BJP was in power.
The measure was aimed at helping farmers’ organisations and companies set up new wholesale markets in the city where farmers could sell their produce directly to bulk buyers. Once the farmers were able to move out of Azadpur, the commissions — both official and unofficial — they paid in the cartelised mandi were supposed to fall dramatically.
The problem is, while the Azadpur mandi is spread over 76 acres, the first farmer mandi set up as a rival has a mere 1.6 acres of land. “The delisting has had virtually no impact on our market operations as farmers have been bringing in their produce to these mandis for years,” Raj Kumar Bhatia, general secretary, chamber of the Azadpur Fruit and Vegetable Traders Association, told FE.
The Azadpur mandi alone supplies more than 15,000 tonne of fruits and vegetables to Delhi and the National Capital Region every day, besides catering to consumers in most northern Indian cities. On average, 200 truckloads of potatoes and onions are brought to the mandi from Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh every day (each truck having a capacity of 12-14 tonne). This has remained unchanged. Even supplies of apples and oranges have not seen a dip.
Meanwhile, the setting up of Kisan mandi, promoted by the Small Farmers’ Agribusiness Consortium (SFAC), has been delayed because of operational issues. This mandi, spread over 1.6 acres at Alipur, the northern tip of the city bordering Haryana, was hoping to supply 1,000 tonne of fruits and vegetables to Delhi and NCR.
“At present, we are supplying only about 20-25 tonnes of potatoes and onions daily to big retailers such as the Delhi Milk Scheme and other bulk buyers using a temporary storage facility located near the Azadpur mandi,” Parvesh Sharma, managing director, SFAC, said.
If they sell their produce via the Kisan mandi, farmers will not have to pay agents 6% commission in the Delhi APMC market and the 1% mandi tax. But the middleman is not disappearing anytime soon.