Agri Business

BL Special: Who will introduce reforms in APMCs?

Radheshyam Jadhav Pune | Updated on November 25, 2021

In Maharashtra, farmers have no right to decide the price of their own produce

When farmers like Suresh Solanke enter the premises of the Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC) at Dharur in Beed district of Maharashtra, they are not sure what will happen to their produce.

Like all other APMCs in the State, the APMC at Dharur is dominated by politicians, who act as directors and run the show with help of traders and arhtiyas (commission agents).

“Once the farmer enters the APMC he is at the mercy of traders and arhtiyas. Farmers are helpless,” says Suresh. He adds that farmers are probably the only producers in India who have no right to decide the price of their own produce.

“At many places, price is already decided and the farmer has to just sell the produce at a decided price. Farmers can’t even take back their produce as they bring the produce to the market travelling 60-70 km,” says Vilas Nakhate, a farmer.

Farmers say that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s announcement to repeal farm laws must have come as a sigh of relief to APMC directors, traders, and arhtiyas, who were jittery about farm laws, especially the Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce law, which promised to create an ecosystem where the farmers and traders could enjoy the freedom of choice of sale and purchase of agri-produce.

Market reforms

The law about trade and commerce was planned to promote barrier-free, inter-State and intra-State trade and commerce outside the physical premises of markets notified under State Agricultural Produce Marketing legislations. The move was intended to unlock the vastly regulated agriculture markets in the country.

The Union government introduced this law saying it will open up more choices for the farmer, reduce marketing costs for them and help fetch better prices.

According to the government, this would have also helped farmers in regions with surplus produce to get better prices and consumers in regions with shortages, lower prices. Farmers suffer from various restrictions in marketing their produce and selling agri-produce outside the notified APMC market yards.

Those who opposed the laws claimed that a majority of farmers sell their produce outside the APMC, and the government wants to destroy the APMC market system to benefit private players. While many admitted that the APMC system has its flaws, they insisted that these flaws must be removed and APMCs must be strengthened.

“Who is going to do that?” asks Bharat Dighole, President, Maharashtra State Onion Growers’ Association. “All APMCs are a den of politics where politicians and traders have a monopoly. They are hand-in gloves to exploit farmers. APMCs handle crores of rupees in form of cess and these people will resist any reform,” he says.

Onion farmers in Lasalgaon, Asia’s biggest onion market, who are trying hard to break the monopoly of traders in the APMC, say that the Prime Minister’s announcement comes as a setback to their efforts.

APMC monopoly

Only a few months ago, Sadhana Jadhav, Director of Krishi Sadhana Society, came to the Lasalgaon market to participate in the auction and purchase onion for NAFED. The society was the nodal agency appointed by NAFED.

Local traders were unhappy with the move and they boycotted the auction. No new trader is allowed to break the chain and enter the trading circle.

“In all APMCs, you will have the nexus between APMC directors and traders. This chain is in place for years now. This APMC system has tightened the noose around the neck of farmers,” Dighole added. Farmers say that arhtiyas in APMCs play the role of a money lender and farmers borrow from them at excessive interest rates. There is a vicious circle, where farmers take advance loans against standing crops, and are compelled to sell the produce through arthiyas.

According to the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare, there are 6,946 regulated wholesale APMC mandis, which are supposed to ensure transparency in the pricing system. Traders’ bodies and directors of APMCs have repeatedly refuted claims made by farmers saying that APMCs are only facilitating trade and farmers are benefiting from the system. However, farmers have another story to tell.

Now, with the Prime Minister announcing the repeal of laws, farmers are unsure who will introduce reforms in APMCs to stop their exploitation.

(This is the second of the five-part series on repeal of farm laws)

Published on November 25, 2021

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