June 29, 2016 6:23:37 am
THE Maharashtra government Tuesday decided to allow farmers to sell their produce in the open market. The move aims to facilitate better financial renumerations for the farmers who would now be free from the regulatory mechanism of agriculture produce marketing committees (APMCs).
By introducing the reform, the state signals its intention to join the National Agriculture Mission (NAM) for “free and fair agriculture trade”.
At present, farmers have to compulsorily sell vegetables and fruits to traders licenced by the APMCs. The farm produce is then retailed by traders at the designated APMC markets. The farmers have no say on determining the price mechanism.
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“We have adopted a middle path. We have allowed farmers to sell their produce in open markets. At the same time, we are not dismantling the APMCs. Those who prefer regulated markets can still continue to operate through the APMCs,” Minister for Cooperation and Marketing Chandrakant Patil told The Indian Express.
To ensure smooth passage for the move, which has invited protests from unions of ‘mathadi’ workers (head loaders) affiliated to the APMCs, the government has constituted a sub-committee of ministers. They have been entrusted with the task of addressing the grievances after talking to all groups that are against the move, and facilitating a comprehensive legislation to be adopted in the monsoon session starting on July 18.
With ally Shiv Sena and Opposition Congress on board, the decision has isolated the NCP.
A conservative estimate of the business turnover at state APMCs is Rs 50,000 crore. However, a minister said, “The bulk profit often goes to those APMC members who control and manipulate the markets. The farmers rarely get the benefits.”
In the last 19 months, the Devendra Fadnavis government has on an experimental basis carried out open markets in the horticulture sector in parts of Pune, Mumbai, Nagpur and Nashik. Reports suggest farmers have reaped good dividends from the move, according to sources.
The intention to join NAM gives the state another reason to go for this decision.
Union Minister for Finance Arun Jaitely and Union Agriculture Minister Radhamohan Singh have been pushing states to undertake reforms in APMCs to enable integration with NAM, stating that agricultural market reforms are integral to NAM.
“Reforms of State APMC Act in terms of (a) a single license for trading to be valid across the State, (b) single point levy of market fee and (c) provision for electronic auction as a mode for price discovery” are the pre-condition set by the Centre for this integration.
A couple of months ago, the state government’s proposal to include 30 markets in e-Mandi scheme was rejected by the Centre, citing Maharashtra’s failure to bring in reforms in the APMCs.
Former agriculture minister Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil of the Congress had initiated the concept of open market policy for farmers in 2006 through a legislation, Maharashtra Agriculture Produce Marketing (Development and Regulation) Act.
Commenting on the move, an APMC official said, “Open markets will make the APMC redundant. The loss of business will increase our operational cost and also work against several lakh mathadi workers who get a secure labour work in the structured market.”
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