As a precursor to establishing a national market for agricultural produce, the Centre has approved a scheme that will facilitate setting up a common market at the State-level. This will end the prevalence of many mandis in one State and farmers will have the flexibility to sell their produce according to their convenience.

Briefing media about decisions taken by the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said the scheme would cover all the 585 mandis in the country. “There will be one licence for the entire state, besides a single point levy. The electronic auction method will be used for price discovery,” he said while adding that most of the States have accepted the scheme.

A Central sector scheme for the promotion of a national agricultural market through the Agri-Tech Infrastructure Fund (ATIF), it has been allocated Rs 200 crore from 2015-16 to 2017-18. This includes provision for the DAC to supply software free-of-cost to the States and Union Territories (UTs) and for cost of related hardware/ infrastructure to be subsidised by the Centre up to Rs 30 lakh per mandi (other than for private mandis).

The target is to cover 250 mandis in the current fiscal, while 200 more will be brought under the scheme in 2016-17, with the remaining 135 becoming part of the scheme in 2017-18. The Centre will meet expenses on software and its customisation for the States and provide it free of cost to the States and UTs. It will also give grants as a one-time fixed cost subject a ceiling of Rs 30 lakh per mandi for related equipment or infrastructure in the 585 regulated mandis, for installation of the e-market platform. Big private mandis will also be allowed access to the e-platform for purposes of price discovery. However, they will not be supported with any funds.

For integration with the e-platform, the States/ UTs will need to undertake prior reforms in respect of a single licence to be valid across the State, single point levy of market fee, and provision for electronic auction as a mode for price discovery. Only those States/UTs that complete these three pre-requisites will be eligible for assistance under the scheme, a Government statement said.