The Maharashtra government has put on hold its decision to delist onions and potatoes from agricultural produce market committees (APMCs). The government on Monday decided that onions and potatoes will be delisted from APMCs in due course while a parallel mechanism is created for farmers in the interim.
Milind Akare, MD, Maharashtra State Agriculture Marketing Board, told FE that the government feels farmers and APMCs need sufficient time till an alternate mechanism can be worked out. Meanwhile, market committees will continue to function as before, auctioning onions and potatoes until the new system is in place, he said.
The state government has also decided not to impose any stock holding limits on onions and potatoes under the Essential Commodities Act on the grounds that the majority of the stocks are with farmers and not traders. This decision was taken after the Centre directed various state governments to impose stock holding limits on onions and potatoes after the fluctuation in prices.
State agriculture minister Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil convened a meeting of the chairmen of APMCs and other stakeholders to take decisions on three issues, including onions and potatoes in the Essential Commodities Act, the denotification of onions and potatoes from APMCs and the minimum export price (MEP) for onions.
Both traders and mathadi or headload workers in Maharashtra have been up in arms against the Centre’s move to bring onions and potatoes under the Essential Commodities Act and delist them from the APMCs. They had decided to chalk out their agitation plan on July 17 in Mumbai but that has been called off after Vikhe Patil asked APMCs to function as before. Maharashtra has around 305 APMCs and onions are a main source of revenue for some 83 APMCs; potatoes are sold in 22 APMCs across the state.
The mathadi union has some 8 lakh mathadi workers. At APMC’s Vashi site, over 25,000 mathadi workers are engaged in loading and unloading.
Akare said APMCs in the state will continue to deal on onions and potatoes in a normal manner until the parallel mechanism evolves for the benefit of farmers. “The government will soon issue mass-scale direct procurement licences to farmer self-help groups in Maharashtra soon and will assist these in capacity building and direct marketing of the commodities,” he said.
“The APMCs were established for the benefit of the farmers and therefore what happens to the APMCs is a subordinate issue,” he added. The marketing