Committee members, however, agreed that they would have to work more on publicising the benefits of selling within the mandi and work more closely with farmers to gain their confidence.
Nearly four years ago, the government of Maharashtra had delisted fruit and vegetables from the purview of the Agriculture Produce Market Committees (APMCs) giving farmers the freedom to sell their agri-produce outside the confines of the Mandis. The APMCs in Maharashtra, however, report that it is business as usual for them.
Maharashtra has around 306 APMCs with an annual turnover of Rs 50,000 crore per annum. Of this fruits and vegetables alone account for Rs 20,000 crore, food grains, pulses and oilseeds account for another Rs 20,000 crore, while spices and dryfruits and other local produce account for the remaining Rs 10,000 crore.
APMCs draw their income from cess which ranges from 0.5% to 1% of the trade value of the commodities. In Maharashtra, the APMC income comes upto Rs 350 crore annually. Maharashtra State Agriculture Marketing Board (MSAMB) officials say that delisting of fruits and vegetables has not made any significant difference to revenues since farmers prefer to continue to sell within the confines of the mandi.
Sanjay Pansare, director, Navi Mumbai APMC, who is also a member of the Fruits and Vegetables Association, Vashi says there has not been much of an impact of the delisting on the APMC arrivals. “Farmers continue to come to APMCs for the lack of a better alternative. At present, arrivals have been affected due to the Covid pandemic, but all these years, there has been no significant difference due to the delisting of fruits and vegetables,” he said.
Anil Chavan, secretary, Navi Mumbai APMC, pointed out that due to the Covid outbreak there have been restrictions in allowing a certain number of vehicles within the market yards. However, there has been a demand to allow more vehicles, he said, adding that this reflects the confidence of farmers in APMCs.
Dhananjay Dhorde, a farmer based out of Shrirampur, agrees saying that a majority of farmers are small and marginal farmers and therefore they do not have the means to market their produce outside the mandis. “What is the alternative? Where does the farmer sell? One cannot expect him to leave his main line of work and find a place to sell,” he pointed out.
According to sources in the sector, the government of Maharashtra has established a high-level committee consisting of the state secretary, senior officials of the agriculture department and agriculture marketing board and chairpersons of three APMCs including those from Latur, Baramati and Hinganghat to study the impact of the recent agri-ordinances announced by the Centre on APMC in Maharashtra.
A committee had been formed to study the impact of Covid. Senior members of the committee who did not wish to be named revealed that one meeting of the committee has already been held in which all members agreed that although a farmer has freedom to sell his produce where he wishes, he will prefer to sell where he trusts people and there is a guarantee of payment.
APMCs also ensure a price discovery mechanism is available to farmers and an open auction method also ensures that he gets a good deal, the members revealed, pointing out that outside the mandis, he is at the mercy of the trader with no means to ensure a guarantee on payment and no full-proof redressal mechanism. Committee members, however, agreed that they would have to work more on publicising the benefits of selling within the mandi and work more closely with farmers to gain their confidence.
The APMCs had come into existence to prevent farmers from getting duped by traders and the Maharashtra state government is currently studying the possible impact of the three ordinances where the aim is to create ‘one nation one concept’, allowing anyone with a pancard to purchase from farmers directly, Balasaheb Patil, Maharashtra minister for cooperation and marketing, had said.
Rashtriya Kisan Mahasangh has pointed out the three ordinances brought by the Centre are an existential threat to farmers because the government is planning to stop procurement from farmers at MSP. Agriculture is a state subject and these ordinances have been brought during the Covid pandemic without consulting farmer organisations. The Mahasangh has submitted memoranda from several states and has given the government time till July 15 to withdraw the ordinance failing which the farmer body has threatened to hold protests across the country.