Mumbai may face a shortage of vegetables and fruits in the coming days, as commission agents across Maharashtra have threatened to shut down all major wholesale markets. The strike has been announced to protest against an order by the director of marketing, restraining agents from collecting commission from farmers.
The Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC) at Vashi is considering an indefinite strike from Wednesday. The Nashik market will be closed from Monday itself, sparking fears that onion prices may see a huge spike.
At present, farmers auction their produce to agents, who charge a certain commission. The government has now forbidden the collection of this money from farmers, and asked agents to recover it from consumers, which they say is unfeasible.
Agents have justified the commission, saying they help farmers get the best deal for their produce. “We take the entire responsibility of selling the goods of the farmers and pay the money instantly within 24 hours. How can we be denied our rightful share of revenue?” said Ashok Valunj, director, APMC. “We may see an indefinite strike from Wednesday if the state government does not stay the order,” he said.
The agents get a commission of 3-6% of the sold goods. For years, the commission agents were accused of gaining profits at the cost of the farmers. The allegation was that fruits and vegetables are perishable goods, farmers had no choice but to bend to the whims of the agents. However, agents deny any such exploitation.
Manoj Jain, a commission agent from Nashik, said the markets there would shut down from Monday. “The director of marketing wants us to charge the consumers, which is not a feasible option. Even the farmers will suffer in this order,” said Jain.
Chandrakant Patil, minister for marketing and textiles, was unavailable for comment.