Grain and spice traders at the Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC) yard at Navi Mumbai called off their two-day strike on the proposed law to allow farmers to sell produce out of the regulated wholesale markets. Cooperative minister Subhash Deshmukh and housing minister Prakash Mehta met the protesting traders, loaders (‘mathadis’) and transporters at Vashi and said the proposed Bill would not go ahead.
“Following these ministers’ assurance, we have decided to call off the strike and resume our business from Thursday,” said Mohan Gurnani, president, Federation of Associations of Maharashtra. A year after de-listing fruit and vegetables from mandi yards, the state government had planned to free all commodities, including grain, spices and processed agri products for sale outside APMCs.
An estimated 100,000 mathadi workers and an equal number of transporters and traders had joined the stir.
Not a single truck moved across any section of the APMC yard. Normally, 550-600 trucks and small carriers with average loading of nine tonnes each enter into the vegetable section daily. Considering a similar number in the other five sections (spices, grain, fruit, potato and onion), the total number of trucks and other vehicles entering the Vashi APMC would be around 3,500.
The Bill in question, recently introduced by the government, sought to amend the Agricultural Produce Marketing Development and Regulation Act of 1963, to remove curbs on sale of grain and spices outside the mandi yards. The current guidelines do not allow this.
“APMC also offers support to farmers. A comprehensive market yard helps farmers in fair price discovery of their produce, which is impossible outside mandis. And, bulk buyers always seek to purchase from mandis, rather than procuring commodities directly from farmers in small quantities. Hence, the APMC Act is not always negative,” said a senior government official.