THE Centre’s decision to demonetise Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes hit farmers hard as majority of Agriculture Produce Market Committees (APMCs) in the state suspended auction of commodities due to liquidity crunch. Several farmers were forced to take their produce back home. APMCs authorities have decided to keep their yards shut for five days till the situation improves. The auction began at some APMCs, but commission agents, who purchase agricultural produce from farmers and later sell them to traders, brought it to a halt, stating that they were unable to pay farmers cash in lower denomination currency notes. At some APMCs, the auction did not begin at all.
Caught unawares, some farmers agreed to delayed payment while many others took their goods back home.
At Gondal APMC, the largest market of groundnut in the state, the auction began on time. But it came to halt within an hour. “Farmers refused to accept Rs 500 and Rs1,000 notes. But all commission agents had these notes only as usually farmers demand them. But today, the situation was different. We were in a fix. Since we have to pay cash to farmers, we don’t keep much balance in bank accounts. Therefore, we were unable to give cheques to farmers either. In such a scenario, we had no option but to suspend the auction,” Mukesh Satasiya, president of Gondal APMC Commission Agents Association, said.
Paresh Vadodariya, a commission agent at Gondal APMC, said he did some business. “I purchased 90 quintals of groundnut. But I had only Rs 15,000 cash in the denomination of Rs 100. I paid Rs 5,000 each to three farmers who said they were in dire need. The rest of them, from Halvad taluka of Morbi, agreed to give me a week’s time for payment,” said Vadodariya.
Jayanti Dhol, chairman of Gondal APMC said that the market will remain closed. “The commission agents said they will be unable to pay farmers cash. Therefore, we have decided to keep the APMC closed for two days,” Dhol told The Indian Express. The chairman added that only around 3,000 quintal groundnut could be auctioned against the average 12,000 per day.
The situation was worse in Junagadh APMC. “We persuaded agents to auction vegetable. But they did not touch other commodities. So the market is full with groundnut and cotton but there are no buyers,” said chairman Bhikha Gajera.
At Halvad in Morbi, one of the biggest markets for cotton, the arrival halved. “We persuaded farmers to either take their goods back or accept delayed payment and managed to auction out 3,400 quintal of cotton. Some farmers even accepted Rs 500 and Rs1,000 notes,” said chairman Ranchhod Patel, adding that he had ordered to keep the yard shut from tomorrow for indefinite period.
Mehsana APMC also remained closed. Commission agents gathered at the auction yard, but decided not to undertake auction for want of liquidity, said secretary Dilip Joshi. Some farmers were forced to take their commodities back. “I was in need of money for a social occasion in the family. But when I reached the yard with my consignment of cotton, authorities there told me auction will not happen today. Nor were they certain as to how many days will the yard remain closed. Therefore, for the safety of my cotton, I did not unload it from chhakdo rickshaw and took it back home,” said a farmer from Vinchhiya taluka of Rajkot.
Others who have already sold their produce are also in a tight corner. “I have sown cotton in my entire holding of 50 hectare and have engaged around 50 permanent labourers. They demand odd amounts like Rs 200 everyday for meeting their daily needs. I just wonder how will I manage the situation. Plus, I never ask for bills of purchase. I shall do what everybody else will do,” said Balwantsinh Jhala, a farmer from Malanka village in Dhrangdhra taluka of Surendrangar.
But some are not that concerned. “I sold my 20 quintal of groundnut 20 days ago at Rs3,750 per quintal. I used the money to clear dues of labourers and traders of pesticides and fertilisers. Around Rs 20,000 cash is left with me and it shouldn’t be much of a problem to get it exchanged at bank,” said Kanaksinh Jadeja, a farmer from Panchiyavadar village in Gondal taluka of Rajkot district.