Mumbai: A month after his government freed fruit and vegetable farmers from the grip of traders and middlemen, Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis on Sunday opened a farmers’ market—on the premises of the state legislative building.
The market, which will be open every Sunday, stocks around 35 tonnes of vegetables produced by farmers from Junnar in Pune district, Palghar and Thane. Fadnavis, who bought vegetables from the market, said efforts will also be made to make available the premises of government offices wherever possible in Mumbai to establish similar direct markets.
In July, the Bharatiya Janata Party-Shiv Sena government freed the sale of vegetables and fruits from the purview of the archaic Maharashtra Agriculture Produce Marketing (Regulation) Act.
The amendment allowed farmers to sell directly to consumers, cutting out traders at agricultural produce marketing committees (APMC) to whom they had to mandatorily sell till then.
The multi-tier regulation system involved levies that farmers had to pay for transport, loading and unloading, and weighing. Most of these levies go to intermediaries like the traders, weighing agents, transporters and labourers.
But the cumulative cost of the levies is passed on to the consumer, effectively denying the farmer the right to determine the price of his produce. The Union government has recommended establishing more direct markets, which would also make APMC-regulated markets more competitive.
The farmers at Sunday’s market have formed cooperatives to market their goods, said an official from the Maharashtra State Agriculture Marketing Board (MSAMB) which facilitated this initiative. There are about 40 stalls at this market which will trade every Sunday between 9am and 3pm.
“We have also requested the legislative assembly speaker to let the market operate on one of the weekdays also. The idea is to provide farmers and consumers with an interface at strategic, clean, and accessible locations,” said the official, who did not wish to be identified.
Fadnavis said the market brought “least handled and farm fresh vegetables” directly to consumers. “There are no intermediaries and the quality of the produce is self-evident because it has not come through the chain of multiple handlers.”
Minister of state for marketing Sadabhau Khot, a farmer himself, said the government had facilitated establishment of 35 such markets in the state after the amendment to the APMC Act.