Maharashtra APMC traders call off strike but Fadnavis faces uphill task to scrap act
The traders were protesting the state government decision to remove vegetables and fruits from the scope of the APMC.
Mumbai: Maharashtra on Wednesday issued an ordinance amending the Agricultural Produce Market Committee Act, 1963, deregulating sale of vegetables and fruits in a move that signals that the state in all likelihood is moving towards scrapping the APMC Act.
Even though Prime Minister Narendra Modi favours scrapping of the APMC Act it would not be easy for Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis to implement the same as the Nationalist Congress Party is steadfastly holding onto it. Scrapping of APMC is a dream project of Modi and his government already made high budgetary allocations for the upliftment of farmers across the country.
"The objective was to ensure that the farmers get a fair price and the consumers get vegetables and fruits at a cheaper rate," additional chief secretary, marketing, Sunil Porwal told Firstpost in Mumbai, terming the step historic.
A committee of traders, bureaucrats and representatives of farmers is likely to be formed to decide the fine print of the procedure and a meeting has been called to facilitate formation of the committee. A decision to this effect was arrived after a delegation of traders from Mumbai APMC under the leadership of Ashok Hande met Minister for Cooperation and Marketing Subhash Deshmukh at the Mantralaya in Mumbai on Wednesday in the presence of Minister for Revenue Chandrakant Patil.
Although the ongoing strike by traders at APMCs in Vashi and Nashik has been called off as this copy was being written, the protest resulted in the prices of vegetables and fruits going north in the Mumbai region. This even led the state government to allow direct market licensees and farm produce companies to set up open markets. The government granted 148 Direct Marketing Licenses of which 91 are for fruits and vegetables.
"The government is working on plans to bring vegetable trucks from Nashik. A large number of trucks laden with vegetables, fruits are coming to Mumbai," Porwal said.
In view of the strike that was just called off, the state government urged farmers to directly bring their produce for sale to Mumbai. Of the 307 APMCs in the state, 219 are operating, while some are closed due to holidays.
An official statement said heavy rains too had affected the supply, though there was no production shortage. Dipti Goradia, a Direct Marketing License holder, said their organisation of direct marketeers identified 10 open plots across Mumbai for selling vegetables, such as Mahim (behind Sitladevi temple), Mulund East (Chaphekar Bandhu Marg), Andheri (Lokhandwala), Goregaon West (Jawhar Nagar), Kandivali West (Raghuleela Mall), Borivali and Ghatkopar.
Trading in fruits and vegetables across most of the markets controlled by APMC in Maharashtra was closed from Monday. The traders were protesting the state government decision to remove vegetables and fruits from the scope of the APMC.
Karnataka, Nagaland, Assam, Chhattisgarh, Haryana, Odisha and West Bengal have already taken fruits and vegetable completely out of the purview of APMC act. Himachal Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh have done it partially.
In November 2015, Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister Nripendra Misra had written to the Maharashtra Chief Secretary Swadheen Kshtriya to free farmers from the purview of the APMC. The last state government headed by then chief minister Prithviraj Chavan had attempted to scrap the APMC Act but the move was stonewalled by NCP chief Sharad Pawar.
The Pune APMC, meanwhile, appealed to the farmers from the state as well as from outside to bring their produce to the market and sell those directly.
"We received 10 percent of the regular agriculture produce supply. However, APMC helped the farmers to sell their vegetable to the customers directly, providing them necessary help," said Dilipkumar Khaire, secretary of APMC Pune.
“We appeal to the vegetable growers from the state as well as out of Maharashtra to bring their produce here and we assure that necessary help will be given to them to sell their produce to the consumers directly,” Khaire said. A control room has been set up at the APMC Market Yard to help the farmers, he said.
MP and president of Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghtana, Raju Shetty, who was in the Pune Market Yard on Wednesday, said, "I will see to it that vegetable growers sell their produce to the buyers directly and they do not face any problem from the traders and commission agents."
Until the ordinance was issued, farmers had to sell most of the produce to the traders who were issued licenses by the APMC. The old APMC Act mandated farmers to sell the produce in the APMC run market yards. Over and above selling the produce to the designated traders, the farmer had to pay APMC cess, taxes, and commissions.
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