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Bengal may allow contract farming

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West Bengal, one of the three states yet to amend the Produce Marketing Committee (APMC) Act of 1972, is planning to do so in the winter session of the Assembly.

Mortaza Hossain, state agricultural marketing minister and a Forward Bloc leader said the government was seriously considering the proposal and would decide soon. The amendment would pave the way for contract farming, which was not allowed in the Act of 1972.

Hossain said under the proposed model for contract farming, companies would approach self-help groups instead of dealing with individual farmers. He was speaking on the sidelines of the launch of West Bengal’s first integrated cold chain plant. State Finance Minister said the government would have to act fast as the procurement season had started.

Today’s announcement is significant as the Forward Bloc-controlled state marketing board had refused to renew the licence of German wholesaler Metro Cash & Carry last year, forcing Chief Minister to intervene. Reliance Retail was also denied licence.

State government sources said the current APMC Act mandated that the companies procure from the mandis. With the amendment, farmers could sell to anyone they wanted.

Union Minister for Food Processing Industries, Subodh Kant Sahay, who was also present at the event, said he had been asking the state government to amend the Act for some time now.

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