THE CENTRAL government’s decision to withdraw higher denomination notes has created a major road block for the state government’s dream project to delist fruits and vegetables from the Agricultural Produce Market Committees (APMC). In want of liquid cash, Farmers Producers Organisations (FPOs) and farmer’s groups who directly sell fruits and vegetables in cities like Mumbai and Pune have complained of a drastic drop in sales which has put their business viability at risk.
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Earlier this year the state government delisted fruits and vegetables from the APMCs and allowed direct sale of fruits and vegetables in cities. Various steps were taken to allow FPOs and Farmers’ groups to set up shops in cities like Mumbai and Pune where people can directly buy from them. FPOs were also encouraged to directly go to housing societies to sell their wares.
Between Pune and Mumbai, 15 weekly bazaars for farmers were set up. On an average around 35-40 tonnes of various agricultural produce worth Rs 12-14 lakh is sold in such weekly bazaars. This move, which has been hailed a major move by the farming sector, is hoped to wean away some of the traditional business from the wholesale markets.
The withdrawal of higher denomination notes has had a debilitating effect on the business of fruits and vegetables in general, given its cash-intensive nature. Shriram Gadve, chairman of the Vegetable Growers Association of India (VGAI) said around 99 per cent of this business both at the farmers’ end and at the traders’ end is cash based. Sudden withdrawal of the higher denomination notes has affected this business adversely with the nascent players in the direct marketing field feeling it more.
Gadve said sales of FPOs who directly cater to housing societies in Pune and Mumbai is down by 25-30 per cent. “Business has been slow over the last few days. People do not have cash and so are not buying from farmers for want of change,” he said. Of the 850 registered FPOs in Maharashtra around 35-40 per cent of them are active and in the sphere of fruits and vegetables business. These FPOs had played an important role during the strike by traders of APMCs, to supply fruits and vegetables to Mumbai and Pune and had eased the travails of the common citizens.
Asked if FPOs had made arrangements to accept plastic money, Gadve said their scale of business will not support it. On an average an FPO does business of Rs 20,000-25,000 in a single day.
Like FPOs, the weekly farmers’ markets have also seen a drop in business of around 20-25 per cent. Tushar Agarwal of Swami Samarth Shetkari Ghat who helps in organising these markets in various parts of Pune said people have stopped coming to the markets in the absence of cash. “Most of the people who come have notes of Rs 2,000 and it becomes difficult for us to give change,” he said. Agarwal also said that farmers have already had the habit of keeping change but with banks running out of easy change they are finding it difficult to run the shows.
Both Agarwal and Gadve hoped that things would ease out in the days to come.