Traders and middlemen at Agriculture Produce Market Committee (APMC) markets called off their strike, which has caused the prices of the vegetables and fruits to skyrocket over the past five days, on Wednesday evening.
However, it will be a few days before vegetable prices start to fall as heavy rains in parts of Maharashtra and Gujarat have also contributed to the price rise. In addition, the strike has not yet been called off at the APMC market at Nashik, a major centre for the trade in vegetables.
Almost all vegetables are still priced at Rs120-Rs160 a kg, while fruits like apples and pears cost Rs 200 and more for a kilo. Sunil Porwal, the state’s additional chief secretary, marketing, said, “Prices have fallen at wholesale markets today and its effect will gradually be seen in retail markets. Besides, as more players – direct marketing companies, multinationals, self-help groups, cooperatives and farmer-producer companies – enter the trade, competition will increase and prices for consumers will come down.”
Vegetable traders had gone on strike after the state’s co-operation and marketing department issued an ordinance last week to amend the APMC Act to allow farmers to sell their produce directly to retailers and consumers. The ordinance barred APMC traders from collecting commission from farmers and imposed more taxes on them. The state government has now assured there will be a level playing field for them and traders who buy produce directly from farmers and sell it outside APMC markets.
At meeting with state government officials at Mantralaya on Wednesday, APMC traders demanded uniform rules for them and traders not covered by the APMC Act. They said vegetables and fruits must be removed from the purview of the APMC Act to ensure a level playing field. “We are not opposing the amendment to the act, but the government should not regulate only us,” said Balasaheb Bende, former director of the APMC market at Vashi.
The state government said it will de-list vegetables and fruits through a fresh notification. “We are not against traders at APMCs. They have accepted the condition of not taking a commission (aadat) from farmers. We will take care of the cess and taxes collected for the maintenance of the APMC market,” said revenue minister Chandrakant Patil.
Meanwhile, the traders association in Nashik has refused to call off the strike, claiming that they have adopted fair-trade practices through open auctions and should not be brought under the purview of the ordinance.
Since Monday, many farmers have been taking their produce directly to vegetable markets in Dadar and Byculla, bypassing APMCs. “Before this we rarely earned more than Rs20 a kg for our produce but now each vegetable brings us this much. Currently we are selling only 10kg and 20kg cartons, but will soon start selling 2kg and 4kg ones,” said Shriram Gadhave, a farmer from Junnar.