AMID protests by farm organisations, arhtiyas and Opposition parties across the country, three contentious Bills became laws recently.
The Union government describes these laws as historic reforms in the agriculture sector for helping farmers get a better price for their produce by allowing barrier-free trading of farm goods and contract farming. However, farmers, arhtiyas and political parties are apprehensive that the laws will abolish or minimise the role of the Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC) mandis by allowing private players to purchase the farmers’ produce.
Officials of the Haryana State Agricultural Marketing Board (HSAMB) say the APMCs would continue to work as before. “Haryana has 113 principal market yards, 168 sub-yards and 198 purchase centres. Our 81 grain markets have the facility of e-trading. The APMC mandis have played a pivotal role in assisting farmers after they bring their crop to the mandis by providing the facility of drying, selling through auctioning either to government agencies or to private purchasers. The system of APMC mandis would not be affected as the MSP crops would be purchased through mandis only,” says Sumedha Kataria, Chief Administrator, HSAMB.
“Huge investment has been made by the state as well as by the arhtiyas in these mandis to facilitate farmers. Apprehension among farmers that their produce would not fetch the MSP is ill-conceived. Farmers would be paid at the MSP. Non-MSP items till now brought to mandis are likely to be diverted to an outside market yard or to a private trade area if the government does not lessen the market fees on non-MSP crops, but Haryana has curtailed the market fee from 2 per cent to 0.5 per cent for non-MSP paddy, basmati and cotton so as to convince farmers to bring their yield to the mandis,” she adds.
Moreover, the marketing board maintains a road infrastructure network of 1,2500 km and development works of around Rs 850 crore in the state, the Chief Administrator says.
Agri experts say the APMC mandis should continue for the benefit of farmers. Gurbachan Singh, former chairperson of the Agricultural Scientists’ Recruitment Board and former Union Agriculture Commissioner, says online trading should be implemented gradually, not abruptly. “Our farmers are not tech-savvy or so literate to sell their produce online easily,” he claims.
“The well-knit system of the APMC mandis has delivered quite well in Punjab and Haryana. In the absence of this kind of assured marketing, around 86 per cent small and marginal farmers may suffer,” he adds.
Vijay Kapoor, a progressive farmer of Karnal district, is apprehensive that the new Acts would end the mandi system by allowing private players to purchase their produce. “The mandi system is a safeguard for the farmers as they get the MSP for their produce, but the private player would not ensure them procurement at this price,” he adds.
Rattan Mann, state president, BKU (Mann), says the APMC system ensures the procurement of the farmers’ produce at the MSP. “We have no issues about selling our produce to private firms if the government guarantees procurement at the MSP. There should be a provision of penalty on those who procure the produce at less than the MSP,” he adds. However, some farmers complain that the functioning of the mandis is inefficient and often controlled by the cartel.
Arhtiyas say the government wants to oust them from the procurement system. “The new Acts will hamper the APMC mandi system. The government is allowing big traders to exploit farmers,” rues Surinder Kumar, a commission agent.
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