The prices of vegetables and fruits could rise this week as traders from the Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC), Vashi, have threatened to go on an indefinite strike, which they called as an indefinite ‘collective holiday’ from Monday.
The Vashi wholesale market provides vegetable, fruits and pulses to the entire Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR). The shutdown of this market could lead to a surge in prices as there will be a shortage in supply and hoarding by some wholesalers and retailers.
The traders are opposing the government’s decision of allowing farmers to directly sell their fruits and vegetables to buyers such as retail chains without dealing with traders at the APMC.
Both, the consumers and farmers, have welcomed the move because it will mean more money in the hands of farmers, owing to the elimination of middlemen, and less retail prices for consumers.
“If the government wants to encourage free trade, it should be for all. Why are they forcing us to follow APMC rules whereas allowing others to trade directly without paying any cess. It should be a level-playing field for all,” said Ashok Walunj, a trader in the APMC onion-potatoes market, who also challenged the state government to supply vegetables and fruits to the whole of Mumbai in the absence of APMC traders.
On the other hand, representatives of farmers said that this is an opportunity for state to allow farmers to do direct marketing in urban areas.
“It’s only the intermediate supply chain which is going on strike. The farmers and consumers will be there in the market. This is an opportunity for government to facilitate farmer-producer companies and a cluster for direct marketing instead of succumbing to the traders’ pressure tactics,” said Mahesh Shelke, director, farmer/producer company Cluster.
Sharing similar views, Shirish Deshpande, chairman of consumer forum Mumbai Grahak Panchayat (MGP) said, “Traders and middlemen should go on permanent leave. Let the farmers come directly and market their produce in urban area. It is the responsibility and duty of the state to provide requisite facilities to the farmers.”
In meantime, the Maharashtra State Agricultural Marketing Board (MSAMB) officials are working out ways to mitigate the consequences of strike if it takes place.
“We will hold meeting with traders on Sunday to discuss the issue. Besides, we are also speaking with companies formed by farmers/vegetable-growers to provide direct marketing of vegetable and fruits in Mumbai,” said Dr Kishore Toshniwal, director (marketing), Maharashtra.