The cash crunch in the post-demonetisation period had prompted 12 of the 20 wholesale markets in Maharashtra to take baby steps towards digital payment, but internet connectivity and bank transaction costs have hindered the markets from switching to completely cashless modes of payments. Many traders who had opted for non-cash options, such as Point of Sales (PoS) machines, now say that they find the high bank transaction costs non-feasible.
Digital payment for farmers has been one of the main planks of the eNam project, which aims to provide a single market platform for agricultural produce. In Maharashtra, 30 markets have been included in the first phase. Markets selected under the project get funding for setting up the infrastructure necessary for the platform, while traders and commission agents have been instructed to opt for digital payment. In Pune district, the wholesale markets at Shirur and Daund have been selected for the project, and they will get Rs 30 lakh in financial aid to obtain the necessary infrastructure. Bigger markets like Pune are slated to go for digital payment in the second phase.
In Daund market, 100 per cent of payments to farmers are now done digitally, but it is the only market which sees so much e-trade. The Maharashtra State Agricultural Marketing Board (MSAMB) is taking steps to address the concerns expressed by traders about digital payments. Sunil Pawar, managing director of MSAMB, said the body was trying to devise fool-proof methods to popularise digital payments in the markets.
“We hope that in the next one year, Maharashtra will be no. 1 in terms of e-trade,” he said.
Rohan Ursal, a trader at Pune’s wholesale market, was one of the first traders to go for a PoS machine in the market. However, the ‘exorbitant’ bank charges soon made him switch over to cash. “Banks started charging 1.5 per cent on every transaction and even started charging us for… the statement of transactions. For small and medium-scale businessmen, it was not economical,” he said. While alternate payment modes were used in weekly farmers’ markets, almost a year after note ban, cash has once again become the most-used mode of payment. Tushar Agarwal, director of the Swami Samarth Farmers Producers’ Company, explained, “Our markets see heavy footfall. Digital transaction is time-consuming, cash is easier to handle”.
The 18 markets run by the FPC have about 3-4 PoS machines and e-wallet options, but consumers prefer paying in cash. “If we insist that they make the payment digitally, they may leave without buying anything,” he said.