NEW DELHI :
The government plans to promote the taxi aggregator model in the truck segment to allow transportation of farm produce to wholesale markets in a bid to help the farming community amid the nationwide lockdown.
“Prime Minister said that welfare of farmers is of high importance. He also said that the government would provide all possible help to farmers in the harvesting season. In this regard, he suggested harnessing technology and encouraging exploration of innovative solutions like using ‘truck aggregators’ to connect farmers with mandis, on the lines of app-based cab services," an official statement said on Monday.
The concept of truck aggregators is expected to support farmers at a time when most are gearing up to harvest the winter, or rabi, crop—primarily wheat, chana, mustard, and fruits and vegetables. Truck aggregators will also eliminate the need for middlemen to take the produce to the market and help get farmers a better price.
The lockdown aimed at curbing the spread of covid-19 has disrupted the supply chain, leading to shortage of essential goods and a spike in prices of perishables in cities, even as farmers dumped their harvest at a loss. A shortage of labour and logistics have also become major challenges for farmers, especially during harvest time.
“This is similar to the part-load concept that has been used to aggregate farmer produce. Till sometime back, farmers would come to a particular destination and load their produce in the trucks that would go to a mandi, similar to what aggregator service providers do. However, due to the lockdown, several truck drivers have moved to their hometowns, while others are worried of not getting enough material at the collection point," Pankaj Khandelwal, managing director, INI Farms, said. “Right now, the government is trying to make it more organized."
Rameesh Kailasam chief executive officer, IndiaTech, think tank welcomed the move. “There is a huge potential for aggregator-based services in agriculture to offer AFAAS (agriculture and farming as a service), which will give access, affordability and reach in the hands of the farmer for all mechanised services from farm to marketplace."
“Currently, small and marginal farmers with less than two hectares of land account for 86% of all farmers and own 47% of the crop area. These are hugely underproductive due to usage of obsolete or non-mechanised processes and incur wastage due lack of access to affordable transport," Kailasam said.
“From tractors, farm equipment for tilling to harvesting to trucking to the marketplace on a pay-per-use basis that would be billed by the hour or acreage, an aggregator model would be apt. There are many startups that are already working in the farm mechanisation space that need scaling up, and there are many truck aggregators who may need to create aggregation of smaller trucks customised to the agriculture space to ensure the end marketplace connect."