With farmers free from the clutches of commission agents following the de-listing of vegetables from the purview of the agriculture produce market committees (APMCs), the Maharashtra government is going all out to ensure they have direct access to consumers.
Buoyed by the positive response to its weekly farmers’ markets in Pune, the government plans to start 300 such markets across the state by December. A farmer market will be set up at the Vidhan Bhavan in Mumbai from August 14 and chief minister Devendra Fadnavis will himself be present at a stall.
During the recent APMC strike in Maharashtra, the state marketing minister Sadabhau Khot had sold vegetables at Dadar, in central Mumbai, to defy striking traders. By participating in the Vidhan Bhavan market, Fadnavis hopes to encourage farmers to reach out to buyers. Tapping directly into the retail market is part of the state government’s plan to bypass the traders at APMC and ensure no disruption in supply of fruit and vegetables in cities like Pune and Mumbai. The state government has also said that it will promote more private agricultural markets in the district to help farmers sell their produce.
Appealing for more companies to start private agricultural markets in the district, the cooperative department said it would immediately issue licences. Until now, farmers had been selling their commodities at the APMCs. However, they suffered losses recently after traders halted auctions in the markets in the face of the government’s decision to de-list vegetables and fruits from the APMC Act and recover 6-8% commission from traders.
The first agricultural market parallel to the APMC at Lasalgaon commenced operations from Monday with the auction of pomegranates. The market spread over 7 acres was started by Lasalgaon Kharedi Vikri Sangh (LKVS), a sub-agency of the National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation of India (Nafed). The Maharashtra State Agriculture Marketing Board (MSAMB) and the cooperative department of the state government have supported the group in commencing with the operations.
According to Milind Akare, MD, MSAMB, the board plans to establish 300 such farmer markets in the state by the end of this calendar year with the cooperation of municipal corporations and other civic bodies. The first farmer market in Mumbai is slated to open at Thane on August 6 and the bigger market will open at the Vidhan Bhavan on August 14, he said, adding that the plan is to gradually scale up operations. These farmer markets are usually held on a weekly basis. Mumbai has over 92 retail markets and 12-13 wholesale markets. Initially, the focus is on the
wholesale markets where farmers’ groups and direct licence holders can do business, a senior official said.
The first such market came up in Pune in 2014 where farmers’ groups would come with their produce and directly sell to consumers. From a single bazaar in 2014, the number of such markets has gradually risen to 30 in Pune, Akare said. Each farmers’ market has the participation of at least 50 farmers who bring 25-30 tonnes of fruits and vegetables. The marketing board provides the space and the rest of infrastructure is erected by the farmers.
According to Akare, farmers get 40% more returns on their goods through direct sale. The board prepares the guidelines and has done hand-holding and coordination for such groups, he said.
Maharashtra at present has some 800 farmer-producer organisations reaching out to 3 lakh farmers. According to MSAMB officials, the farmer-producer companies are now in direct touch with consumers and they are marketing vegetables on their own. MSAMB, which had begun a 24-hour cell during the recent APMC strike period to monitor the progress of farmer-producer companies and to ensure that there were no glitches in reaching out to the consumers, plans to continue with the cell.