Braving political hurdles and the powerful lobby of licensed wholesale traders and commission agents, the Maharashtra government has de-listed fruits and vegetables (F&V) from the state’s Agriculture Produce Marketing Committee (APMC) Act, 1963. An ordinance is being issued shortly. The move would give thousands of farmers in the state and nearby areas the freedom to market their F&V produce to buyers outside the 305-odd APMC-regulated mandis in the state, including Vashi, the country’s second largest wholesale F&V market with daily trading volume of 6,000 tonnes.
The state government had almost taken the de-listing decision twice in the past but was forced to backtrack — an ordinance cleared by the Devendra Fadnavis-led state Cabinet in January had to be withdrawn in the face of trader’s protest; in May 2012, the then NCP-Congress government had a similar draft notification but it could not be finalised as the NCP cadres themselves blocked it.
While Maharashtra’s decision made it the 13th state to de-list F&V from their respective APMC laws (another seven states/UTs have dismantled such laws altogether), analysts were sceptical about the move suddenly ending the monopolistic grip of exploitative middle men on the state’s wholesale F&V trade, as new market infrastructure will take time to develop. They noted that Delhi’s Azadpur mandi, the country’s largest (with daily supplies of more than 15,000 tonnes a day to the National Capital Region and a clutch of other north Indian towns), is yet to lose significant volumes to new markets even though the state government removed F&V from the purview of its APMC law in September 2014. According to a Union agriculture ministry official, states should provide land for setting up of new mandis while the private sector could develop the infrastructure.
Food for thought
Rs 5 lakh cr: Annual turnover of fruits and vegetables trade in 5,500 APMC mandis across the country
Rs 50,000 cr: Annual turnover of 305 APMC mandis in Maharashtra
15,000 tonnes: Daily F&V trade in Delhi’s Azadpur mandi, the country’s largest
6,000 tonnes: Daily F&V trade in Vashi mandi