The Maharashtra government’s move to relax norms and deregulate agriculture markets seems to have paid off. In the last couple of years, private markets in the state have earned around Rs 4,200 crore in terms of revenue while direct marketing licences earned some Rs 4,800 crore worth revenue in the same period.
Until now in the traditional system, farmers sold produce to Agriculture Produce Market Committees (APMCs,) whereas the government’s move to deregulate markets was meant to boost direct retail sales of fruits and vegetables to ensure stronger farm-to-fork linkages and in the process ensure better prices for producers and lower rates for consumers as well.
The state government, through the Maharashtra Agricultural Produce Marketing (Regulation) (Amendment) Act, 2005, began the liberalisation process by providing for the creation of private markets, farmer-producer markets, direct marketing and contract farming.
Sunil Pawar, director, marketing, Maharashtra had earlier said that the government has begun direct marketing licences, private marketing licences and single licences with the aim of encouraging multiple channels for marketing agri-produce and inviting bids through an online system. Such a move is directed towards allowing companies to purchase directly from farmers, bypassing intermediaries.
The government is offering direct marketing licences, private marketing licences and single licences to encourage multiple channels for marketing agri-produce and inviting bids through an online system. According to officials, there is no plan to dismantle APMCs that have been created over the years but alternative solutions are being encouraged to ensure ease of doing business.
Maharashtra currently has some 42 private markets, 533 direct marketing licences, 94 weekly markets and 40 single trader licences. The state has some 305 principal and 603 secondary APMC market yards. The APMC Act mandates that these markets must have facilities like auction halls, warehouses, weigh bridges, shops for retailers, police station, post office, bore-wells, farmer amenity centres and a soil-testing laboratory.
However, most APMC markets offer very few of these facilities and the system to buy produce from farmers, auction it and sell to wholesalers and retailers through traders is very opaque, leaving enormous scope for malpractices.
Until now, direct marketing licences have been issued to corporates including Reliance, Aditya Birla, ITC Foods and Tata Chemicals, among others. The government is offering such licences to traders, exporters and private players to sell either within or outside the state. Maharashtra has private markets in Nashik (pomegranate), Vani in Yavatmal, Nanded, Washim and Buldhana (cotton).