To protest the state government’s decision to penalise trade below the government-mandated Minimum Support Price (MSP), traders across Maharashtra continue to boycott auctions in most wholesale markets in the state. Traders have also decided to hold a meeting in Pune on September 3 to decide on the next course of action.
Last week, the state cabinet had decided to amend the Maharashtra Agriculture Marketing (Development and Regulation) Act 1963, to make trade below MSP punishable with a one-year jail term and a fine of Rs 50,000. Other amendments included declaring the state a single market and designating some of the mandis as markets of national importance.
Terming the proposed move illogical, traders had said market prices are based on the principles of demand and supply, and punishing traders for below MSP trading may backfire.
Satish Vyas, director of the Achalpur Market Committee in Amravati district, cited the example of government agencies such as the National Agricultural Marketing Federation (NAFED), which procure commodities as per the MSP but sell them below procured prices.
“Their losses are taken care of by the government… but if we traders try to do so, who will cover our losses,” he said.
Vyas said some markets have started functioning in Vidarbha only after intervention by market committees and local officers of the cooperation department.
The office of the director of marketing, meanwhile, said it was yet to receive any official communication or government resolution about the amendment. As per Section 29 (2) (ix) of the APMC Act, it is the duty of the market committee to “take measures for the prevention of purchases and sales below the minimum support prices as fixed by the Government from time to time,” said senior officers of the department.
Market committees have the power to suspend licenses of traders who refuse to take part in trade and some of the market committees in Marathwada have already issued such notices.
Lalitbhai Shah, chairman of the Latur market committee. said the local district deputy registrar (DDR) had convened a meeting on Thursday and urged traders to restart the auction. The DDR pointed out that no GR has been issued on the matter yet.
Pasha Patel, chairman of the state Agriculture Pricing Committee, said, “Genuine traders need not be worried.. … this protest is based on misconceptions.” He said the government was working on a legislation to protect the interests of farmers whose crops are not covered under the MSP regime. “Trade in those commodities is more than Rs 20,000 crore… a proposed legislation will be brought in the house and passed accordingly,” he said.