The Odisha government has banned agri commodity trading platform NCDEX e-Marketing Ltd (NeML) for alleged illegal procurement of paddy and maize. But the company refuted the charges, saying it is a platform to facilitate buying and selling, and not procurement.

In an order issued by the Director of Agricultural Marketing, Odisha, on December 8, all the regulated market committees (RMCs), which are similar to the Agricultural Produce Market Committees (APMC)  in other states, were “requested to ban NeML from making any transaction of agricultural produce in the State henceforth”.

Referring to a communication issued by the Cooperation Department on November 28, the director said that “NeML has been declared banned for further procurement of any agricultural produce under the area of operation of the RMCs in the State basing on the enquiry report of Regional Marketing Officer, Kalahandi, on illegal procurement of paddy and maize from the area of operation of RMC Nabarangpur”.

NeML has said that at no point in the investigation was it allowed to cross-examine the alleged complainant, which contravened the principles of natural justice, and the decision against NeML was taken unilaterally, overlooking the validated facts and paperwork submitted by it.

“NeML is in the process of writing to the department to keep its decision in abeyance, urging them to reconsider their decision in light of the comprehensive documentation and facts provided by the company. Moreover, NeML retains the right to pursue legal avenues to challenge the department’s decision,” the company spokesman said.

Expired licence

According to the enquiry report, seen by business line, one Nirakar Biswas has alleged that NeML procured paddy and maize below MSP to sell at a higher price later. However, the enquiry panel could not serve notice on Biswas and noted that no such person stayed at the address mentioned in the petition. Yet the matter was investigated by the designated officer Madhusudan Meher.

“It is well known to every trade that for trading activity in the market area of a state/RMC each trader has to obtain licence as per OAPM Act & Rules 1956. Without a valid licence no trader can make trade. But in this case the NeML, in spite of expired licence as on April 14, 2018, as per their claim, continuing trading till the year 2022-23 which is a clear violation of OAPM Act & Rules 1956.

“Moreover continuing of trading by the agency for four years without a valid licence proves the ill-intention of the agency. Further, by trading paddy below MSP not only violated the terms and condition (N0.7 & 9) as given during issue of licence but also cheating and harassing farmers,” the report says.

‘A private affair’

However, the spokesman of NeML said that both these transactions of paddy and maize were private trades between independent private traders and outside any RMC in the State.

“NeML has submitted the details of the trades and the GST numbers with PAN numbers of both the buyers and sellers in these transactions. The trade of paddy under question pertains to 514 tonnes sold by two independent local private sellers from the State… And the three private buyers are traders from Telangana, West Bengal and Chhattisgarh. This was substandard paddy, which was damaged and discoloured, hence the transaction happened below the market price and MSP. The trade also took place outside RMC’s premises and did not involve any farmers,” the spokesman said.

The second trade pertains to 300 tonnes of maize, wherein the seller was a local trader (who is an aggregator) and the buyer is from Kolkata, the company official said.