APMCs in Maharashtra observe one day strike protesting against deregulation of markets

PUNE: Farmers across the country are happy with the central ordinance freeing them from the compulsion to sell exclusively to the Agricultural Produce Marketing Committees (APMCs), but administrators of the APMCs in Maharashtra have planned a one-day token strike against the deregulation. Mumbai wouldn’t participate in the industrial action.

Traders working at the APMC premises have demanded that they too be given the relaxation from paying taxes, a benefit their counterparts working outside the APMCs would get under the new law.

On June 5, the Centre announced the Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion & Facilitation) Ordinance 2020. Besides other objectives like creating one nation one market, the law seeks to create an ecosystem where farmers and traders would enjoy the freedom of choice relating to the sale and purchase of farm output – at remunerative prices.

“As the farmer does not have to pay the market cess now, he will be able to sell his produce from his field or home at a price that he decides. It will be beneficial for the farmers, traders and also the consumers,” said Anil Ghanvat, president, Shetkari Sangthana. “We had been demanding this freedom for the past 40 years. We request the government to not yield to pressure groups and withdraw the ordinances.”

The opposition to the new law is from two segments – administrators running the APMCs and traders. Administrators have their political interests, while the traders working at APMCs are worried about the taxes they will have to continue to pay, while their counterparts working outside APMCs wouldn’t.

The APMCs charge a cess on the crops sold within their jurisdiction that normally extends to a defined geographical area outside their premises.

“As we no longer will get the income from cess charged on produce sold outside the APMC premises, we will not be able to maintain the infrastructure that we have created. The APMCs will not be able to survive,” said Dilip Mohite, chairman, Maharashtra State Market Committee Cooperative Association, which represents 301 of the 307 APMCs in the state.

“We don’t understand why the APMCs have been excluded from the jurisdiction of the new ordinance. To save the APMCs, the traders working here are ready to pay an annual maintenance charge to take care of the facilities provided. However, if the cess applicable on trade at the APMC is not reduced, then the traders will not be able to survive,” said Rajesh Shah, senior vice president, Federation of Association of Maharashtra.

The state had already deregulated fruits and vegetables from the APMC Act, giving farmers the freedom to sell anywhere. The new ordinance will have an impact on the trade of grains and other commodities, such as pulses, oilseeds etc.

“The new ordinance will not make any difference to trade of onions and other vegetables as we have been already buying these commodities directly from the farmers,” said Nandkumar Shirke, an onion trader from Ahmednagar.