Monday, May 20, 2019


Govt’s call to connect 22,000 rural agri mkts to eNAM disappoints APMC
Saturday, 10 March, 2018, 08 : 00 AM [IST]
Ashwani Maindola and Shraddha Joshi
The decision taken by the Government in this year’s Budget to upgrade and connect 22,000 rural agriculture markets to the electronic national agriculture market (eNAM) has not gone well with the office-bearers of the agriculture produce market committee (APMC).

The decision stated that these markets will be upgraded under the Gramin Agriculture Markets (GrAM) plan, wherein physical infrastructure will be raised through the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MNREGA).

These GrAMs will also be linked with the eNAMs and exempted from APMC regulations, thereby helping the farmers to make direct contact with potential buyers.

“For this, a corpus of Rs 2,000 crore is set aside for developing the agriculture market infrastructure in these 22,000 rural agriculture market and the 585 APMC markets,” said Arun Jaitley, finance minister, during his Budget speech earlier this year.

Besides, the government has also decided to expand the coverage of the eNAM. Until now, 470 APMC markets have been connected to it, and the rest are expected to be linked to it by March 2018.

However, APMC office-bearers opined that this could derail the already-existing mechanism for the sale of perishables.

Ashok Walunj, former director, Mumbai APMC, said, “In 1967, APMCs were set up all over India by the Government of India with the aim of ensuring that farmers get good rates for their produce, be it perishable or non-perishable items.”

“Every district and taluka of the country has one APMC market. There are 302 APMC markets across Maharashtra,” he informed.

“The system is already in place, and farmers are getting fair remuneration for their produce. The government’s new proposal to upgrade 22,000 rural agri markets, which will be out of the APMC’s laws, will result in a mess and adversely affect life of many people. People have invested crores of rupees to set up shop and conduct their business,” Walunj said.

He added, “If you look at Mumbai APMC, it is spread across 100 acre. But the infrastructure there has collapsed. Why is the government not looking to upgrade the same?”

Walunj claimed that the current system was robust and the farmers get their remuneration within 24 hours. He informed that that was not the case earlier.

“On a daily basis, approximately Rs 7-8 crore are transferred to farmers through these APMCs. In addition, we sell the product on total credit which we have bought farmers, and receive the payment for this after 48 hours. So every party stands to benefit, except us. Every shop has 10-12 employees, and in Mumbai alone, there are 5,000 shops. So you can imagine the number of people getting affected all over India,” he rued.

Walunj said two years ago, the government abolished the six per cent commission the traders used to earn on the profits earned by the farmers. “So, farmers selling onions worth Rs 1 lakh used to get Rs 90,000 in hand after our commission and other deductions. Now, with the new rule, they are getting 100 per cent payment,” he added.

Meanwhile, Kirti Rana, chairman, Navi Mumbai Merchant Chambers, opined that there was a need for proper infrastructure, hygiene and a process for the renewal of licences. “There are a lot of difficulties, including different sets of rules for different APMCs across India. Moreover, multiple taxes after the rollout of Goods and Services Tax (GST) have led to more confusion in trading in agriculture commodities. The government was unable to support the prime APMCs,” he added.

“There is a proposal going on to make Navi Mumbai APMC an international hub, but the basic facilities like hygiene and licences are the issues that have been hovering around for some time. There is a problem with the way licences are being renewed. Moreover, the fee hike has witnessed a 100 per cent increase. How the government will go to villages when it can’t clear the mess in cities is a great question,” Rana said.

However, Ashok Dalwal, chief executive officer, National Rainfed Area Authority, Ministry of Agriculture, said that it was a very good step. “We have recognised that 86 per cent of farmers are small and marginal, and it is difficult for them to travel to faraway APMC markets.”

“Moreover, they are primarily wholesale markets. So we need retail markets in the close proximity of the farmgate, so that the farmers can aggregate their loss,” he added.

“This GrAM Yojna will help farmers in aggregating their losses by forming farmer-producers’ organisations (FPOs), for example. Then it will become economical to transact from there to APMC. Also they can trade over the digital platform of eNAM,” Dalwal said.

“Also, the new Marketing Act provides for direct sales, and therefore, these GrAM centres can become centres of direct sales. The producers can then sell the agri produce to individual or bulk purchasers. So it is a valuable purpose for providing a market transaction opportunity to the farmer in the nearby market. They will become the foundation for the agri trade in future,” he added.

Dalwal also opined that over a period of time, when the 22,000 gramin markets are upgraded, they will start absorbing the produce in their respective zones.

“Today, a majority of the losses are because the produce is not reaching the market. This is an opportunity to absorb the produce from the hinterland,” he added.

When quizzed about its impact on the APMCs, Dalwal said, “I feel that APMCs will get strengthened by this decision. The problem today is the surplus is not reaching the APMCs. These rural markets will become the foundations and then it can connect to the APMC.”

“And the bulk purchasers and processors will also find this easily and can directly interact with the farmers without any intermediation,” he added.
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