18 months on, market reforms still on paper in Maharashtra

In response to an RTI query put forth by The Indian Express, the directorate of marketing has revealed that wholesale markets in only four regions have reported a dip in arrival of vegetables.

Markets in Konkan, Pune, Amravati and Nagpur have reported a dip in arrivals while those in Nashik, Kolhapur, Aurangabad, Latur have shown increased arrivals.

On July 2016, the Devendra Fadnavis-led government had unveiled major reforms in agricultural markets by allowing trade of fruits and vegetables outside mandis. Aimed at increasing farmers’ income, Maharashtra was the second in the country to bring in the reform after Delhi. However, almost 18 months down the line, it seems the reforms have failed to usher in the desired changes in the state.

In response to an RTI query put forth by The Indian Express, the directorate of marketing has revealed that wholesale markets in only four regions have reported a dip in arrival of vegetables. Ironically, the dip in the markets has been made up by increased arrival in the other three regions. The state now reports more arrival of vegetables in the wholesale markets than it used to prior to the reform.

The reforms, called delisting of fruits and vegetables, was to break the insidious grip the traders and commission agents had on price realisation in the markets. Farmers had alleged price fixing by the traders and welcomed the move of delisting. Post delisting, trade in fruits and vegetables could be carried out any where in the state without having to take licence or pay cess to wholesale markets.

However, the reforms, it seems, have failed to have drastic effect on the trade of the wholesale markets. Figures show that between July 2015 and June 2016 mandis had reported arrival of 11,28,09,163 quintals of perishables. A year since delisting, between July 2016 and June 2017, the arrivals stood at 11,59,44,994 quintals – an effective rise of 31,35,831 quintals.

Markets in Konkan, Pune, Amravati and Nagpur have reported a dip in arrivals while those in Nashik, Kolhapur, Aurangabad, Latur have shown increased arrivals (see chart). The trade in perishables is concentrated in the districts of Pune, Nashik, Satara, Sangli, Kolhapur and Ahmednagar among others. By far, the wholesale market in Vashi, near Mumbai, is the biggest trading hub in perishables with markets of Pune and Nashik etc also reporting significant trade.

This dichotomy, Yogesh Thorat, the managing director of the Maharashtra Farmer’s Producer Company Limited (MahaFPC), said was mainly due to the absence of a supporting ecosystem for alternative markets to develop.

“Markets require active participation of all stakeholders. Delisting was supposed to be the first step towards it but nothing has been done in terms of capacity building of either the farmers or the FPCs,” he said. Alternative markets in the form of private markets or direct marketing licences, Thorat said, hardly covered even 1 per cent of the trade. “The reforms, unfortunately, have remained on paper in want of a supportive ecosystem,” he said.

For perishable commodities, like vegetables, to venture out of the framework of the wholesale markets, presence of facilities like cold storage is must. Officers admitted that cold storage, especially dealing with perishable items, are few and far between in many parts of the state. Areas like Pune, Mumbai, Nagpur, and to an extent Amravati, have reported a dip in arrivals as farmers have access to alternative markets in the form of large urban centres. In the rest of the state, while cultivation of vegetables has increased, failure to provide alternative markets have forced farmers to go to the wholesale markets.

Similarly, Shriram Ghadave, the president of the Vegetables Growers’ Association of India (VGAI) opined that the reforms have failed to reach the grassroots.

“The government is showcasing the weekly farmers’ markets but they are mostly controlled by traders themselves. There has been no effort made to include farmers in the marketing chain,” he said.

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

19 − nineteen =