WITH THE state government stripping agricultural produce market committees (APMCs) of their regulatory powers and opening the field of primary trading of agricultural commodities to private players, Mahuva APMC in Bhavnagar district — in a bid to retain its role as the main trading hub — has revived its scheme of giving subsidy to farmers for fencing their agricultural farms and thereby, to attract more farmers.
The biggest wholesale market of onions in Gujarat, the Mahuva APMC started the registration of farmers for this scheme on Friday. It has allocated Rs 50 lakh and proposes to provide subsidy to 1,000 farmers in the year 2020-21.
On the opening day, 1,073 farmers signed up even as the registration window is to remain open till Tuesday, said Vishal Pachani, secretary of Mahuva APMC. He said the scheme will be available to farmers of 135 villages of Mahuva and Jesar talukas.
The move comes around six weeks after the state government promulgated an ordinance to amend the Gujarat Agricultural Produce Markets Act on May 6. The amendment stripped 224 APMCs in the state of their powers to regulate primary trade of agricultural commodities in their respective jurisdictions and to levy marketing cess, even on transactions taking place outside the physical boundaries of their yards but within their jurisdictions. The amendment permits private entities and traders to purchase directly from farmers at farm gates, without incurring liability of paying any cess to the local APMC. It also allows private entities to set up their own marketing yards.
On the other hand, the APMCs that run on a cooperative model and are supported by the state government would now have powers to levy cess only on those transactions taking place within physical boundaries of their marketing yards or sub-yards.
The amendment means the APMCs will have to compete with private players to offer better prices and services to farmers even as many of them stand to lose a huge share of their revenue due to their shrunken jurisdiction.
Chairman of Mahuva APMC, Ghanshyam Patel said, “We are an organisation working for the welfare of farmers by ensuring that the price of their produce is discovered through open auction, weighing is transparent and payment is made instantly. We collected around Rs 1.5 crore revenue by facilitating auction of onions during the lockdown, which has provided us financial room to revive the subsidy scheme for electric wire fencing in wider interest of farmers,” Patel told The Indian Express.
The APMC has identified nine vendors selling battery and solar panels and the latter have agreed to offer 10% discount to farmers purchasing these units via the APMC. The APMC will also give farmers an additional subsidy of 20-33% on the subsidised units. Thus, a farmer opting for electric fencing of his four hectare farm will get the battery and the solar panel at around Rs 8,700, as against the market price of Rs 13,500, APMC officials said.
Mahuva is known for cultivation of onion, cotton and groundnut. Farmers say blue bulls (Nilgais) and wild boars are major threats to standing crops and electric fencing is emerging as the preferred mode of field protection.
Farmers are required to purchase steel wire, suspend it from wooden or cement poles on the border of their farm and then connect it to the battery. Any animal coming in contact with the wire experiences an electric shock, which can scare away the animal but it’s not severe enough to cause its death.
“Two years ago, I availed of the subsidy scheme and did electric fencing of my three hectare land. It cost me total Rs 20,000 and the APMC paid Rs 5,000 of it. Since then, I haven’t had to worry about blue bulls damaging my standing crop on that field,” said Vipul Bavadiya, a farmer from Amrutvel village of Mahuva taluka.
The yard had disbursed Rs 35 lakh worth of subsidy among around 1,000 farmers in 2017-’18 and Rs 45 lakh in 2018-’19. “We have plans to purchase land for expansion of the yard and had discontinued this scheme last year to save money and use it for purchasing land. But due to good revenue collection, we have revived it this fiscal to protect farmers’ interest,” the chairman added.
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