Work from home is not necessarily an option for just white-collar workers. Farmers, who usually sell their crops via an established supply chain through Agricultural Produce Market Committees (APMCs), now have the means to avoid market yards and sell their produce from home.

With almost all the States imposing a lockdown to restrict the spread of the coronavirus, most APMCs have downed the shutters, bringing commodity trading to a grinding halt. However, farmers have kept an option open for themselves — with ‘off-market’ sales or what they call ‘sell-from-farm’.

Dual benefits

In Gujarat, producers of oilseeds, grains and spices are increasingly turning to off-market sales. “This is a beneficial proposition for us on two counts,” Ramesh Patel, a farmer from Visavadar taluka in Junagadh district, told Businessline . “First, we don’t incur transportation costs. Second, we don’t need to pay commission and other labour charges that we usually do at the APMC.”

Off-market sales aren’t a new phenomenon, though. Experts note that such a mechanism did exist earlier, with a significant quantity of crops getting sold through that mode. “But what is important to note here is that the APMCs are closed at all major markets,” pointed out Vitthal Dudhatara, President of the Gujarat unit of the Bhartiya Kisan Sangh. “Also, there are restrictions on movement. In a scenario like this, farmers have no option but to sit home with their produce lying on the field. Therefore, more and more farmers are now resorting to this mode of trade because they need money immediately so that by March-end they can repay their loan obligations.”

It’s peak harvest season for crops such as wheat, oilseeds and spices, and they need to be sold before any climatic adversity strikes. “We are fearing unseasonal rains in the later part of this week. This poses a threat to the harvested crop. So it is better that farmers sell the crops as early as possible,” said Dudhatara.

How it works

The buyer — typically a trader or wholesaler — remains in touch with a broker or an agent from the village and gets an update about the readiness of the crop. Once the farmer informs the broker about his crop being ready for shipment, the trader is updated and the price and other transport arrangements are decided upon. The agent is paid by the trader, with the farmer not having to shell out any money.

Patel, who has a 5-acre land and grows wheat, said selling from the farm-gate is a profitable proposition for him. For instance, he said, he recently sold wheat at ₹1,665 per quintal from his farm-gate. “I got at least ₹200 more than what I would at the APMC. In addition to that I need not spend on transport from my farm to the APMC and no labour cost is required. So this gives me a greater profit,” he said.

The APMC cess — payable to the APMCs of the taluka — continues to be applicable to off-market transactions, too.

At a time when APMCs are closed and supply chains are disrupted, the off-market sales model offers a way out for farmers, who are usually the most vulnerable to natural calamities and market-driven fluctuations.