Delisting of fruits and vegetables from wholesale markets has not resulted in a mass exodus of farmers from mandis, according to data from the Maharashtra State Agricultural Marketing Board. The markets of Pune and Mumbai have reported an increase both in terms of arrivals as well as turnover of fresh fruits and vegetables, post-delisting.
In 2016, the state government had delisted fruits and vegetables from wholesale markets, allowing trade in such commodities to be conducted outside the mandis without any supervision. This had led to opposition from multiple market committees in the state, which had gone on strike.
The government had refused to change its policy and policymakers had highlighted the need for such reforms to enable farmers to get better prices.
Data shows that arrival of fruits and vegetables in the wholesale markets in Mumbai and Pune has increased, while it has dipped in Nashik.
The Mumbai wholesale market reported the arrival of 313.46 lakh quintal of fruits and vegetables in 2016-17, which increased in 2017-18 to 334.74 lakh quintal.
Pune, which reported the arrival of 102.71 lakh quintal of perishable commodities in 2016-17, had reported 119.54 lakh quintal in 2017-18. But Nashik saw a dip from 41.92 lakh quintal to 37.85 lakh quintal in the same period.
Market reforms have been a sensitive issue for any state government, given the politics and economics associated with the issue. Also, the monopoly of mandis in trade was a point of contention with farmers, who felt it hampered fair realisation. On their part, traders had resisted any market reforms, citing threat to their life and livelihood. The state government’s latest bid for market reform — which would have seen further liberalisation of trade — was rolled back after traders in Mumbai went on an indefinite strike to protest against the ordinance.
Rajendra Shelke, the president of the onion potato traders and commission agents association of Vashi market, said the increased numbers of fruits and vegetables do not reflect the real picture. “Quality of arrivals has dipped while most of the trade is now being conducted on credit instead of ready settlement,” he said. Yogesh Thorat, the managing director of MahaFPC — the umbrella body of farmers’ producer companies in the state — pointed out that both Mumbai and Pune are secondary markets where the majority of trade is between traders. “Dip in arrival numbers in Nashik is a clear indication that farmers are moving away from primary markets. Also, many farmers are coming directly to secondary markets for better prices,” he said.
One of the reasons that might have increased the arrivals is the lack of proper infrastructure for trade outside mandis. Rohan Ursal, a commission agent operating in Pune’s market, said that till now, mandis are the the only avenue available for farmers to sell their produce.
“Farmers have continued gravitating towards markets given the ecosystem and secure payment they provide,” he said. Ursal added that traders have historically played the intermediary role between growers and consumers.