Agri Business

Farm laws rollback: What keeps Gujarat farmers indifferent?

Rutam V Vora | | | Updated on: Nov 19, 2021
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Roll-back would be detrimental to long-term farmers’ interest, some groups claim

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s announcement on the repeal of the three controversial farm laws caused little excitement among farmers in his home State. Reactions were mixed and the sentiment was by-and-large indifferent.

Unified agri-market

The reason? Gujarat has already enforced a reformed APMC Act making the State a unified market and allowing farmers to sell their crop anywhere outside the APMC (Agricultural Produce Market Committee) without requiring cess payments to market yards.

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Even though the market yard cess ranges between 0.5 to 1.5 per cent of trade value, it is a sizeable portion considering the thin margins in commodity trade. Since the passage of the act in the State Assembly in September 2020, agri-trade has been allowed to take place outside APMCs directly with the buyers without any involvement of arhatiyas (middle-men).

“Practically, there is not going to be any impact on Gujarat farmers (of the repeal of Central farm laws). The agri-trade was already reformed under the new APMC Act and was well-received by the farmers,” said a a senior official from the Gujarat Agriculture and Cooperation department.

Reduced APMC jurisdiction

Earlier, the APMC would have a jurisdiction covering the entire tehsil/taluka. It would make it mandatory for buyers to pay a cess to the APMC on the farm produce purchased.

APMCs in Gujarat now have a reduced jurisdiction limited to their physical geographies only. So, under the new State law, buyers can directly buy from the farmgate and pass on a price benefit to farmers.

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“This way, farmers happily agree to trade outside the APMCs. And in the past one year, we have not received any complaint from the farmers on this act,” said the official.

Limited impact of repeal

Farmer leader and activist Sagar Rabari too ruled out any potential impact or advantage to Gujarat farmers from the repeal of the three controversial farm laws.

“We had a State APMC Act already in force even before the Centre came out with its new laws. So, the repeal will not make any difference to the farmers of Gujarat. On contract farming, there won’t be much impact either. Gujarat, like many other States, has its own contract farming act which is robust and continues to be in force. But the repeal of the new Essential Commodities Act will bring in the old act, which will eventually have some impact on the prices of agri produces,” said Rabari, adding that the new Central farm laws weren’t bad but poorly implemented.

‘Long-term loss’

The Gujarat unit of Bhartiya Kisan Sangh (BKS), an RSS-affiliate farmers’ body, termed the Prime Minister’s decision detrimental in the long-term for farmers.

“The roll-back of the three farm laws will surely end the controversy and protest around them. But the stubbornness of a few big farmers will cause a long-term loss to small and medium farmers,” said Vitthal Dudhatara, President of Gujarat BKS.

Administrative reforms

Gujarat’s amended APMC Act not only trimmed the jurisdictions of cess collection for these agriculture market cooperatives but also brought reforms in the administrative structure by fixing the terms for the appointed bodies.

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As the State APMC Act was amended just before the Central farm laws were amended, it is to be seen if there would be any legal implications of the repeal on the State Act. “We will need to study and seek legal advise on whether the State Act would be required to be amended based on the Centre’s decision to repeal the new laws. It is a matter of assessment of its effect and any possible contradictions with the Central laws,” said the senior official from Gujarat Government.

Published on November 20, 2021

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