October 5, 2020 12:56:55 am
With the Parliament passing the three farm laws, the state government is under pressure from farmer organisations to initiate reforms in the Agriculture Produce Market Committees (APMC) to maintain their relevance and help them compete with open markets.
Several organisations, while opposing the farm laws, have urged the state to make it mandatory for APMCs to enforce minimum support price (MSP), said state officials.
An official in cooperation and marketing department said, “A group of ministers believe they will have to bring reforms in APMCs to maintain their credibility and trust among farmers.”
Unlike Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan, the farmer unions in Maharashtra are divided on the farm laws, forcing the government to tread cautiously, said officials. The state government has constituted a Cabinet sub-committee to study them and their impact on APMCs.
Yavatmal-based farmer activist Devanand Pawar said, “The APMC is any day a better alternative to open market, which the Centre is pushing for. It provides security to farmers. But the government should make it mandatory for APMCs to strictly enforce MSP while procuring foodgrain, oil seeds or cereal and pulses from farmers. The biggest setback for farmers is when their produce fails to fetch higher renumeration. Often traders at APMC force farmers to sell their produce below MSP.” According to unions, around 55-60 per cent farmers don’t get MSP for their produce.
The 78 per cent small and marginal farmers in Maharashtra, whose land holdings are mostly not in excess of two hectares, are unlikely to explore distant markets if APMCs provide them MSP, said a farmer.
Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana president Raju Shetti said any reform in the agriculture sector becomes futile if it cannot promise MSP to farmers. “The three new laws may promise the sky but what is their use without MSP… Our party is founded to fight for farmers’ rights – whether for sugarcane or soyabean, we want MSP,” he added.
The state has a network of 306 APMCs with an annual turnover of Rs 50,000 crore. Majority of these are controlled by politicians, mostly from ruling allies Congress and NCP. “The corporatisation of the agriculture sector will make farmers more vulnerable and financially weaker,” said state Congress president and Revenue Minister Balasaheb Thorat, adding that APMCs provide social and financial security to small and marginal farmers.
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