States keen on agriculture sector reforms, says centre
New Delhi: States are keen on reforming agriculture by liberalizing laws relating to marketing of farm produce, and amending those allowing for contract farming and setting up of private market-yards, a top government official said on Wednesday.
Following a consultation by think tank NITI Aayog with state agriculture marketing secretaries on Wednesday, the centre is hopeful it will be able to persuade states to undertake critical reforms to help shape up a pan-India market for farm produce, Ashok Dalwai, additional secretary at the agriculture ministry, said after the meeting.
“The goal is to a create a competitive environment in trading of farm produce which will help in better price realisation by farmers,” Dalwai said.
He added that the model agriculture marketing law prepared by the centre in 2003 did not enthuse states in the past and reforms were patchy. “A new model law is ready and we are urging states to remove restrictions on agriculture trade,” he said.
The official also shared a gamut of reforms undertaken by states till date. These include 417 regulated markets- governed by state Agriculture Produce Marketing Committee (APMC) laws- joining the electronic National Agriculture Market (eNAM) platform launched by the centre in April last year. Under the eNAM portal, 5 million tonnes of produce worth Rs15,000 crore had been traded till 10 April.
However, most of the trade has been restricted to mandis (farmers’ markets) within states, meaning a farmer from say, Madhya Pradesh, cannot yet access a trader in Punjab. “Our goal is first create a state-wide market by unifying all regulated mandis within a state and then take it to a pan-India level,” Dalwai said.
He added that the centre has initiated steps to set up a national market for farm produce starting with replacing physical trade with online auctions. These include facilities to check quality of farm produce traded under the electronic platform and setting up a dispute resolution mechanism that may arise between trading parties.
According to the centre, several states have also initiated reforms allowing contract farming and setting up of private market-yards. Maharashtra tops the list, having allowed the setting up of 41 private markets, followed by 25 in Gujarat, eight in Rajasthan and six in Karnataka.
Further, Maharashtra has also allowed 527 large buyers to procure directly from farmers, while Karnataka and Rajasthan have allowed 37 and 76 such buyers, respectively. Several states including Uttarakhand, Punjab, Haryana, Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra and Karnataka have allowed a limited number of contract farming agreements between companies and farmers to trade in perishables.
The centre is likely to present the new model law on agriculture marketing before states during a national consultation later this month. Besides marketing of farm produce, the centre has also urged states to create a liberal land leasing regime and allow farmers to sell timber grown in their own plots, something that is now heavily regulated by state forest departments.