Reforming agriculture not easy, Maharashtra traders protest move to allow farmers in retail market

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Pune | Updated: May 30, 2016 6:02:49 PM

The Maharashtra government is set to remove restrictions that force farmers to sell their produce only to wholesale markets.

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The Maharashtra government is set to remove restrictions that force farmers to sell their produce only to wholesale markets. The government is working on an ordinance to amend the Agriculture Produce Marketing (Regulation) Act.

However, the move has not gone down well with traders across the various market committees in the state. These traders have called for a meet at Nashik on Saturday to chalk out their action plan. All the agriculture produce market committee (APMC) unions across the state and traders associated with APMCs are likely to call for a bandh on June 8 to protest against this move.

The ordinance is likely to be  later introduced as a Bill in the monsoon session of the state legislature in July. This could mark the second phase of reforms in the agricultural product marketing sector. In 2006, Maharashtra initiated the first phase of reforms in the APMC markets by passing the model legislation Maharashtra Agriculture Produce Marketing (Development and Regulation) Act. Currently, farmers in Maharashtra have to sell their vegetables and fruits to traders licensed by APMCs. The produce is then retailed by traders at designated APMC markets. An amendment Bill to allow direct retail sales has been on the government’s agenda for more than a year, but it has not been introduced in the state assembly. In January, the state decided to promulgate an ordinance but backtracked following opposition by unions.

Narendra Shelke, president, Kanda Batata Aadat Vyapari Sangh, Turbhe, Navi Mumbai, said the move proposed by the government is totally incorrect since the APMCs were initially established by the government with the farmers’ interests in mind. The APMC Act came into being in 1963 after it was found that farmers were being fleeced outside by unscrupulous elements.

“The Onion and Potato market was initially run out of Crawford market in Mumbai while Byculla and Dadar took care of vegetables and fruits. Both these markets were shifted to Navi Mumbai on a 300-acre plot to streamline operation. Removing restriction does not make any sense since farmers as well will end up making losses,” he claimed. Shelke said that the APMC system offers security to farmers and ensures that they do not lose out on their money. ” The Mumbai meeting has already been held. A meeting has been planned in Nashik on Saturday to be followed by another meeting in Pune and Nagpur. An all Maharashtra meet has been planned on June 8 in Mumbai where traders shall decided their future line of action, he said.

Sohanlal Bhandari, president, Nashik Onion Traders Association, confirmed the meeting to be held at Nashik on Saturday and said, “Let the government take its decision. Traders shall then see what is to be done.”

Jaydutta Holkar, chairman, Lasalgaon APMC, pointed out that the move proposed by the government is wrong. The government claims that the decision would help farmers get the best price for their produce. But this can be achieved by announcing fair and guaranteed minimum support price for the farm produce including vegetables and fruits. Farmers have been demanding a fair and minimum price all along. Instead, the government is diverting the issue, he said.

Holkar cited the example of grape, a commodity that has not been in the list of APMC products as an example.

“Farmers have been seeking the inclusion of grapes in the list since they are at the mercy of traders and end up losing money. The APMC system provides for an open auction. There is competition and the farmer is guaranteed his money within 24 hours of sale. How does the government expect the farmer to do farming and also sell his products in retail. Most vegetable and fruit growers typically sell their produce in bulk to traders, ” he said.

Opposition
* The Maharashtra government is set to remove restrictions that force farmers to sell their produce only to wholesale markets.
* The government is working on an ordinance to amend the Agriculture Produce Marketing (Regulation) Act
* All APMC unions across the state and traders associated with APMCs are likely to call for a bandh on June 8 to protest against this move

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