With operations in wholesale markets suspended, MahaFPC — the consortium of Farmers Producers Companies (FPC) in the state, has restarted procurement operations for tur and chana at government notified Minimum Support Price (MSP).
Yogesh Thorat, managing director of MahaFPC, said the consortium has decided to regulate operations to avoid crowding at its centres due to the health crisis.
Prior to the nationwide lockdown, the National Cooperative Agricultural Marketing Federation (NAFED) had begun procurement process for tur and chana as both these commodities were trading below their MSP.
Maharashtra was given a target of procuring 2.15 lakh tonnes (lt) of tur and 4.15 lt of chana for the current season. The three sub agents of NAFED — the Maharashtra State Cooperative Marketing Federation (MSCMF), the Vidarbha State Cooperative Marketing Federation (VSCMF) and MahaFPC, had begun farmers’ registration and procurement.
Since MSCMF and VSCMF procure the produce at wholesale markets, their operations remain suspended due to labour and logistics problems. Wholesale markets also have seen very little trade as most commission agents and traders have kept away from the markets.
MahaFPC had decided to restart operations due to the liquidity crunch faced by farmers and their need to offload the produce, Thorat said. “Unlike markets, our centres had the advantage of being located in remote areas and so, are away from urban or peri-urban areas. So, the question of crowding did not arise,” he said.
To maintain social distancing and avoid any instances of crowding, the MahaFPC has also put a cap on the number of farmers who can sell their produce at a time. MahaFPC had restarted operations on March 27, when agriculture commodities were exempted from the lockdown.
Farmers who register to sell their produce are sent an SMS specifying the date and time when they are supposed to come to the centre to sell their produce. For this season, Thorat said, as many as 60,000 farmers have registered to sell tur and 40,000 farmers have registered to sell chana. “Normally, our system used to send SMS to at least 30-40 people per day but now, we have limited the number to 15-20,” he said. At the centres, hand sanitisers and face masks were made available with the staff ensuing social distancing is maintained.
Till Sunday, MahaFPC had affected procurement of 14,000 tonnes of tur and 184 tonnes of chana and has paid a total of Rs 14 crore to farmers. However, their operation is far from seamless, Thorat said. “We are facing shortage of gunny bags as the only mill in West Bengal which supplies it is not operating. Similarly in some areas, the police had ordered the centres to be shut down,” he said. Of the 125 centres that MahaFPC operates, at least 60 are operating in full swing. But labour is a major problem with many centres grappling for want of proper labour.
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