Each morning, Nandakumar Khumse, a farmer who grows soybeans and chana in his six acres of land in Latur district of Maharashtra, eagerly looks at his mobile phone. Although he is part of several WhatsApp groups, there is one that he is particularly interested in — the one that informs him of the prevailing prices of his produce in different markets for that morning. “By around 10.30 am the rates offered are declared in the group and this helps me make up my mind on where to sell my produce,” he says. The end result is that he often has to go past some of the procurement centres nearest to him but in the bargain, he earns more.
Wholesale rates make or mar the lives of farmers like Khumse. But for the longest time, wholesale rates have been a monopoly of the APMC mandis. To break this monopoly, the Maharashtra government had started issuing Direct Marketing Licenses (DMLs) to FMCG companies and Farmer Producer Companies (FPCs) so that these mandis can be bypassed and farmers can directly sell their produce to anyone who offers better prices. But there was a crucial loophole — lack of information meant farmers did not always know if there was a better deal on offer. As a result, of the 57 private markets, 10 failed to report their business turnover while only 163 of the 1,059 DMLs issued filed details of their business turnover..
To address this issue, Kishore Z Toshniwal, Director of Marketing in the state government, decided to crack the whip on license holders who fail to disseminate the rates offered by them. “Notices were served on 70 DML holders,” he says; some rectified and other left. The practice has benefitted both farmers and procurers.
The challenge now is to ensure the same happens in other districts as well. Wholesale rates in the 304 mandis in the state are advertised on a daily basis on the website of the Maharashtra State Agricultural Marketing Board. Going forward Toshniwal wants the DML holders also to do the same. At present rates of only a handful of such markets are available on the website. “This integration will allow certainly allow farmers from across the state to make more studied decisions,” said Toshniwal.