The state government’s announcement goes back to 2007, but the plans have yet to see light of the day. The coming up of terminal market complexes at Ludhiana, Hoshiarpur, Jalandhar and Muktsar for fruits and vegetables in Punjab still remains a dream. According to sources, strong pressure from commission agents (arhtiyas) has forced the government to avoid the amendment of the Punjab Agricultural Produce Markets Act (APMC). The proposed legal modification would have enabled the private players to go for direct procurement from the state’s farmers — and enable private participation.
Currently, Punjab does not allow direct purchase of produce from fields. This, when setting up of terminal market complexes would have enabled the farmers to directly sell their products to sellers. The matter assumes significance also considering that the SAD-BJP government has supported foreign investment in multi-brand retail, advocating that it would improve quality and provide better remuneration to farmers. Again, that requires an amendemnt in the Act.
According to government officials, the amendment in the APMC Act has been hanging fire for the past five years, as the government did not go ahead with their announcements following immense pressure of commission agents. The terminal market complexes projects was to be developed on the PPP mode, while the proposed investment in these four terminal markets would likely around Rs 500 crore. Each terminal market would have a capacity to handle about 300,000 tonne of fruits and vegetables per year (or 1,000 tonnes of vegetables and fruits per day, taking into consideration 26 working days). The entire set-up would be on the hub and spoke model with 20-25 collection centres in each market and a catchment area of 20-30 km, which would act as spoke to the market. Even, the Punjab state agriculture marketing board had, in 2007, invited an expression of interest for establishing terminal market complexes at these locations through the PPP mode. Only four parties -- Premium Farm Fresh Foods Ltd PFFPL (a subsidiary of Bharat Hotel), LT Overseas Ltd, Gurgaon-based Acme Telepower and Noida-based Caryaire equipments India Private Ltd — showed interest in setting up complexes at these places.
Sources disclosed that the government had not go ahead with the plan since the amendment in the Act was yet to be passed. Some allege that a “strong arhitya lobby” doesn’t want the Act to be amended, as it will jeopardise their interest, so the amendment in the act is taking so much time.
According to agricuture experts, the development of the project in the state would have integrated domestic production with food-processing industries, retail chains and emerging global markets, offering premium price to farmers based on quality in a competitive environment and transparent manner.