Maharashtra’s Minister for Cooperation Chandrakant Patil on Wednesday announced that the official government notification (GR) to delist fruits and vegetables from the purview of the Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC) will be issued within the next few days.
While the minister expressed confidence that the state government would be able to make the transition smoothly, commission agents and traders said they would go on an indefinite strike if the state government went ahead with the move.
Delisting of fruits and vegetables from the APMC would mean open access for farmers to sell their produce anywhere in the state.
In the pipeline for the last many years, the move is aimed at removing the monopoly of the traders and commission agents in the trade of fruits and vegetables.
While the previous Congress-NCP government had tried to go for delisting, they were not able to do so due to the strong opposition from the commission agents and traders alike.
“I feel the previous government had failed to explain the situation properly to the commission agents and traders. For the last two years, we have had several rounds of talks with them. We are confident they have realised the rationale behind this move,” Patil said.
He said the total turnover of the over 300 APMCs in the state was around Rs 50,000 crore, of which fruits and vegetables contributed around Rs 10,000 crore. Delisting this, he said, would not result in much financial loss to the commission agents and the traders but would mean great financial gains for the farmers.
Other than delisting of fruits and vegetables, the government will also reduce the area of the APMCs within the four walls of the marketyard. At present, the APMCs have jurisdiction over trade in agriculture commodities that happen anywhere in the districts of their influence.
For long, farmers have complained about the arbitrary cuts on their final prices in the APMCs which significantly hit their earnings.
Delisting, they pointed out, would help in better price realisation as the monopoly of the APMCs would end.
In case of fruits and vegetables, around 75 per cent of the total production in the state is sold through the APMCs. Commission in case of fruits and vegetables is significantly higher than other commodities, given the perishable nature of the commodity.
Earlier, efforts to streamline the commission rates had failed due to opposition to the move by the traders and commission agents.
Patil also announced that henceforth, the market cess which till now was deducted from the farmer’s bill, would be levied on the trader’s bills.
In order to help farmers realise better prices for their produce, Patil said the state government would set up a chain of cold storages and godowns. “Such infrastructure will help farmers to hold on to their produce in case of a price slump. A scheme is being worked out which will allow farmers to construct cold storages on their land with government finance,” he said.
The state government, Patil said, was ready to handle any law and order issue arising from the protests of commission agents and traders in a peaceful but firm manner.
However, traders and commission agents seemed firm on the strike if the government goes ahead with the delisting. Sanjay Pansare, president of the union of commission agents and traders of fruits market in Vashi, said they would go on indefinite strike once the government went ahead with its decision. “We have been in touch with commission agents and traders across the state and we will oppose this move,” he said.