Relief for farmers: Centre eases agri produce sale rules amid Covid-19

The letter written by the Union ministry of agriculture and farmers’ welfare advises states to relax rules governing the APMC Act and mandis for three months
A series of central government notifications and letters to states in the past two days will enable agri and food products to reach consumers in a timely and efficient manner.

The measures include limiting jurisdiction of APMCs (Agricultural Produce Market Committees) to their physical premises, allowing big retailers and even commodity processors to buy directly from farmers and decentralising authority for issuing passes for movement of essential goods and critical persons engaged in essential services in favour of companies with national chains, Railways, ports and airports designated authorities.

The letter written by the Union ministry of agriculture and farmers’ welfare advises states to relax rules governing the APMC Act and mandis for three months, allowing farmers to sell crops directly to bulk buyers, processors, and big retailers without a licence or following any registration process. However, as agriculture is state subject, state governments will need to allow it.

This move will ensure that thousands of pulses and dal mills, oilseed crushing units and wheat flour mills will be able to source supplies of these essential commodities. Pulses and edible oil processing industries had asked for permission to directly buy from farmers.

States have been asked to limit jurisdiction of all APMCs to the physical premises of notified markets only for three months. All warehouses that are registered with the Warehouse Development and Regulatory Authority are being notified as market yards, which will help farmers sell commodities at their doorstep and all processors, bulk users can buy from them without going to mandis.

Besides, letters by the home secretary to all administrators and the agri ministry to all states’ chief secretaries have asked for decentralising authorisation to accommodate and make the process of issuing passes to move around for providing essential services.

Apart from these, the Centre has relaxed norms for trading on e-National Agriculture Market platform, which is linked with 585 mandis in 16 states.

In these letters, all items of food and grocery, which are consumed by people daily, have been defined as essential goods, and states and administrators have been told to follow this definition of essential goods.

District authorities are issuing passes to carry out the activities and services that are “essential and under exempted category”. However, those businesses having nationwide supply chain of essential goods are facing difficulties.

The Centre said “all state governments, Union territories have been advised to issue authorisation letters to companies/organisations having nationwide supply chain of essential goods and allowing them to issue regional passes for easy movement of critical staff and workers in order to maintain their national supply chains. The number of such authorisations shall be kept to base minimum.”

States administrators and chief secretaries have also been told that designated authorities under Railways, ports, and airports should be allowed to issue passes for a critical mass of staff and contractual labour that are essential for such services.

For intra-state movements of trucks for essential goods, driver and one additional person would be allowed to travel and empty trucks could keep invoice, e-way bills, the letter said.

On Thursday, the Union agriculture ministry had allowed farmer producers’ organisations to sell on e-Nam or electronic national agriculture market platform without bringing the produce to mandis. The electronic warehouse receipts (eNWR) issued by regulated e-Nam warehouses make trading smooth. Traders and processors can now buy commodities on the e-Nam platform and check in which warehouse the commodities are available to make their decision-making simple.

“Farmers can also use the futures platform for hedging their price risk through eNWRs,” said Kapil Dev, executive vice-president (business) at NCDEX.

With the facility to deposit produce in warehouses without bringing it to the mandis, farmers can also wait to sell at the right price.

All these steps will not only help farmers maintain social distancing but also equip them to take more informed decisions about their produce.

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