Coronavirus impact: Gujarat govt issues post lockdown guidelines for APMCs

The letter asks APMCs to allot separate date and time between farmers from their own jurisdictions and those from other jurisdictions or districts.
With the Agricultural Produce Market Committees (APMCs) across the state looking to resume operations post April 14, the Gujarat government has issued guidelines to ensure containment of Covid-19 spread at the market yards.

APMCs engaged in grains, pulses and oilseeds had seen an impact, thereby several of them shutting down amidst the 21-day lockdown announced by the Centre. Now, while the Centre and states are planning to extend lockdown, the market yards are gearing up to resume operations. However, the state government has now issued guidelines asking APMCs to prepare in advance before resuming operations.

"Amidst the lockdown, the government is ensuring that essential items are made available to citizens. Currently, most of the grain market yards are closed across the state due to lockdown. Post lockdown with several farmers, wholesale and retail traders and consumers likely to come to market yards for trading of grains and vegetables there is a potential to further spread the coronavirus. As a result, several steps are required to be taken by the market yards amidst the current situation during trading of grains, pulses and oilseeds," a letter by the director of Agriculture Marketing and Rural Finance, Government of Gujarat to all APMCs stated.

Among the guidelines, the market yards are being advised to take varied measures to ensure social distancing and sanitisation of premises. For instance, the government has suggested division of the market yard into separate segment for different commodities with farmers trading in each commodity being assigned specific date and time in advance to come to the yard for trading their produce.

The letter asks APMCs to allot separate date and time between farmers from their own jurisdictions and those from other jurisdictions or districts. 

"In the current auction system, after farmers have brought their produce to the market, around 15-20 traders gather for auction with total number of people at the market tending to be around 30-40. In such cases, maintaining social distance becomes difficult. Therefore, it is suggested that as much as possible the current auction system be done away with, thereby arranging for direct purchase by traders and commission agents from framers at the farm level and not gather at the yard as much as possible," the letter suggests.

Other measures include mandatory face masks and hand gloves, sanitisation at entry, and alternate platforms being assigned for trading of each commodity at the market yards, with circles drawn to assign spots for each farmer or trader while trading to maintain social distancing. 

"All entering the market yards should sanitise themselves before entering and should wear hand gloves mandatorily. If the yard is small, then the number of people entering the market may be limited and if required nearby unoccupied spaces such as schools or colleges can also be leased for trading activities other than the market yard to ensure social distancing," the letter further read.

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