July 10, 2021 6:52:20 pm
The Centre’s decision to allow Agriculture Produce Marketing Committees (APMCs) to avail credit from the Agriculture Infrastructure Fund (AIF) has failed to impress farmer leaders. They say the move is an eyewash to defuse the criticism the central government has faced over the three agricultural laws, which they said was a move to destroy the mandis.
On Friday, the Union cabinet had modified the rules of AIF and allowed APMCs to avail credit under the scheme. Addressing the media, Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar said APMCs will be allowed to get credit up to Rs 2 crore for setting up facilities like cold storage, grading and sorting centres etc. This move will help farmers get better price for their produce, said Tomar.
Set up in May 2020, AIF is aimed at improving facilities at farmgate and post-harvesting facilities. Long-term and medium-term debt facilities were made available under the fund with an interest subvention of 3 per cent per annum up to a limit of Rs 3 crore.
The fund was made available to Primary Agricultural Credit Societies, Marketing Cooperative Societies, Farmers Producers Companies, Farmers, Self Help Groups, Joint Liability Groups, Multipurpose Credit Societies, agri-entrepreneurs, start-ups and central, state or public- private partnerships.
Wholesale markets or mandis are cooperative bodies which control the trade in agricultural commodities. These are market places where farmers sell their produce. Mandis have faced criticism from many quarters for the hold they have on agri trade. Last year, the central government had passed three agri laws, one of which allowed for out-of-mandi trade without the supervision of APMCs.
Inclusion of APMCs now is a bid to divert attention from the criticism the government has been facing over the farm laws, said farmer leaders. Former MP and farmer leader Raju Shetti called this announcement another way to divert attention from the ongoing farmers’ movement.
“Why was this fund not included in the budget? Inclusion of the APMCs is just an announcement to quell the farmers’ unrest,” he said. Shetti linked this with the formation of a new Cooperation Ministry as a way for BJP to take over the sector.
Ajit Nawale, leader of Kisan Sabha, the farmers’ wing of Left parties, said APMCs already have enough funds. “This amount is paltry as compared to the other funds they have access to. The announcement hardly makes any sense,” he said.
However, Yogesh Thorat, managing director of MahaFPC, said the move was to develop a holistic chain for agri commodities. APMCs will be part of the agri commodity value chain by offering farmers means to add value to their produce, he said.
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