Around 30 of Maharashtra’s Agriculture Produce Market Committees are now part of the first phase of the union agriculture ministry-promoted national electronic platform, National Agriculture Market (eNAM). According to Sunil Pawar, managing director, Maharashtra State Agriculture Marketing Board (MSAMB), work has been in progress for the last three to four months and 28 mandis in the state have already commenced e-auctions. The hardware is in place and trials have already been completed, he said, adding that Maharashtra has become the first state in the country to declare awards for mandis that perform well in eNAM. The Centre has allotted around Rs 30 lakh per mandi which means the state has recieved Rs 9 crore for the project. The progress of these mandis will be monitored after which the state shall move into the next phase in the next three to four months, Pawar said. These 28 mandis have begun providing online gate entries and commenced e-auctions. The government has tried to free up agricultural markets and let farmers sell at the best prices they can discover.
In April last year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the electronic National Agricultural Market (eNAM). So far, only 250 of the 7,500 Agricultural Produce Market Committee mandis across the country have signed up for eNAM. The core objective of eNAM is to facilitate trade between distantly located traders and farmers through an electronic trading platform. To put it simply, an onion farmer from Telangana can sell his produce to a trader in the Lasalgoan market of Maharashtra, one of the largest wholesale markets for onions, virtually. The goal of the eNAM platform is to connect regional mandis, helping farmers access markets across the country.
So far, 417 mandis in 13 states have joined the eNAM platform after amending their APMC Acts to fulfil three requirements — a single statewide licence for traders, a single point of levy of market fees and the launch of online trading. Eventually, in the future, farmers need not bring their produce to markets, and farm level or aggregate storage structures and warehouses may function as markets themselves. States such as Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Karnataka, Maharashtra and West Bengal have amended their APMC laws, allowing the setting up of private market yards and direct sale of produce by farmers.
Similarly, 21 states have allowed a single-point levy of market fees across the state, allowing a trader to purchase produce from a farmer anywhere within that state. And 15 states allowed the delisting of fruits and vegetables from APMCs, making it possible for farmers to sell these outside regulated markets. According to Pawar, the first phase involved intra-mandi trading, the second phase would see inter-mandi trading and the third phase would involve inter-state trading. The Maharashtra government has already recieved in-principle approval from the Centre for the next 30 mandis and work on these mandis should begin soon, he said.
The Marketing Board also plans to establish assaying labs which are required for certification purposes for the next phase when farmers would want to sell to other mandis or states, he said. In March this year, after liberalising and deregulating agricultural markets, the state government began relaxing norms to create multiple marketing channels, which would allow companies to purchase directly from farmers, bypassing intermediaries.
The government is offering 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. As against the traditional system where farmers sell produce to APMCs, the latest move 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.
The entire agriculture market turnover in Maharashtra is worth more than Rs 1 lakh crore. Transactions worth Rs 30,000 crore per annum take place at smaller informal markets. Private contracts worth Rs 20,000 crore are signed outside these two markets. There are 40,000 artiyas or middlemen in Maharashtra. The state has 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 malpractice. Pawar, however, clarified that 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.