If the state government’s decision to allow farmers to sell their produce directly to end consumers in retail comes into force, then in the next few months, you’ll be paying incredibly low prices for vegetables and fruits. A few days ago, the Maharashtra State Agriculture Marketing Board (MSAMB) despatched a letter to all the Agriculture Produce Market Committees (APMCs) in the state, informing them that all the notified fruits and vegetables in its schedule will be decontrolled in a month’s time.
This will allow the farmers to sell vegetables, fruits and condiments directly to the end consumer without any involvement of the APMC traders. Currently, agriculture produce reaches consumers from farmers via middlemen in the APMCs. In such a system, a lion’s share of the profit is reportedly pocketed by the latter, whereas the farmer is left with very little. This also results in escalation of prices for consumers.
“We have received a letter from MSAMB, which has sought to decontrol notified vegetables, fruits and spices. Once these items are decontrolled, the farmers will be able to sell their agriculture produce directly in retail, which will be beneficial for both farmers and consumers, as traders and commission money will not be involved. For example, we pay around Rs 20 for a kg of brinjal in retail. While the farmer gets just Rs 5, the middleman gets the rest. So if the farmer directly sells brinjal for Rs 10 in retail, both the farmer and the consumer will be satisfied. The MSAMB has given the APMC board 30 days for complaints and suggestions on the issue,” said a senior APMC official, requesting anonymity.
Traders see red
However, traders at APMC market have alleged that, through decontrolling, the state is making way for foreign direct investment (FDI). They claim the move will render over 20,000 people jobless in Mumbai alone. Narendra Patil, leader of the APMC mathadi union, said, “It is a conspiracy by the governments to make an easy entry for multinational companies like Wal-Mart in the retail sector.
If the state decontrols notified fruits and vegetables from the APMC market, over 20,000 people will be left jobless, which includes labourers, transporters, retailers and traders. Also, farmers will not benefit much, as they do not have enough facilities to carry out direct selling.” Traders from all the APMC markets in the state will be meeting today at the APMC market in Vashi to decide their course of action to oppose decontrolling.