Amid the controversy over new farm laws, the Maharashtra government has stepped up its weekly farmers’ market scheme, which allows producers of vegetables and fruits to sell their produce directly to consumers at designated places.
The government issued fresh guidelines on Thursday, allocating specific responsibilities to Agriculture department officials, staffers of Agricultural Technology Management Agencies (ATMA) and farmers’ producer companies (FPCs) to ensure quality production, timely supply and trouble-free sale of the produce in the ‘weekly markets’ in cities and towns.
The scheme — ‘Sant Savta Mali Farmers’ Weekly Market’ — was launched in August 2016 during then chief minister Devendra Fadnavis’ tenure, following the success of such activities in Pune city as the result of an initiative by local politicians, where farmers were setting up stalls on weekends to sell their produce directly.
Presently, there are about 110 weekly farmers’ markets in the state. As per the guidelines issued by the state government in 2016, local civic bodies are expected to provide space to these markets while the Maharashtra State Agricultural Marketing Board facilitates the farmers or Farmers Producers Companies to organise them.
Fresh guidelines issued on Thursday by the Uddhav Thackeray-led government designate specific responsibilities to taluka and district-level agriculture officers, ATMA officials as well as individual farmers, farmers’ groups/companies. As per the government resolution, the scheme will now be called ‘Sant Shiromani Savta Mali Rayat Bazaar Abhiyan’, which will further Thackeray’s vision of ‘Vikel te Pikel’ (growing produce that sells).
Taluka Agriculture Officers have been entrusted the responsibility of planning and creating awareness about demand for various kinds of farm produce, area-wise planning of crops, supply of input material and transport arrangement for the produce to the respective weekly markets They are also supposed to arrange education and training programmes to improve grading, packaging and sales capacities of farmers. They are also required to co-ordinate with municipal officials and office-bearers of housing societies to decide on the time and place of setting up of the stalls.
ATMA officials have been asked to co-ordinate the efforts at district and divisional levels and help farmers’ groups or companies to get requisite permission to set up weekly markets.
Individual farmers, farmers’ groups and producer companies have been asked to ensure diversity of supply so that consumers can find all the required vegetables and fruits at one spot. They have been asked to maintain good quality of supply and ensure that measurement equipment are accurate, the sire of the weekly market is cleaned up and the unsold produce is taken back.
“The new guidelines issued by the government bring more clarity about roles of various components of weekly market schemes. While the structure of the scheme remains as it was earlier, the fresh GR aims to allocate specific responsibilities to ensure quality supply and greater co-ordination,” said Tushar Agarwal, director of Swami Samarath Farmers Producers Company.
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