All 306 Agriculture Produce Market Committee (APMCs) yards across the state will shut their operations on August 25, to protest against the cess being collected for products sold at the wholesale market. The traders are opposing the amendment in the Essential Commodities Act 1955, brought in by the central government in the first week of June.
Traders met the state government as well as the opposition for waiving off the cess being collected at the wholesale market while there is no such tax for products being sold in the open market. Traders say that they want a level playing field.
Bhimji Bhanushali, secretary of the Grain, Rice & Oilseeds, Merchants’ Association (GROMA) said that they held three webinar meetings with all traders across the state and decided to close the market for a day on August 25. “We will intensify our protest if state and the central government does not solve the problem,” he added.
In the first week of June, the central government amended the Essential Commodities Act, 1955, and brought in ‘The Farming Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Ordinance, 2020’. With the amendment, farmers are allowed to trade outside the APMC without any State’s tax or legal binding.
At present, the trade of essential commodities like food grain, oil, vegetables, onion-potato attracts 0.8% cess at the APMC. Bhanushali said that because of the cess, the same product becomes costly at APMC and people to purchase it from out of the wholesale market. “We are not against the decision as we have always supported the welfare of farmers,” said Bhanushali. However, he added that there should be a level playing field for all stakeholders.
According to traders at Vashi APMC, the decision has severely impacted their business, and they are incurring huge losses. “The problem will become more severe in days to come when the market will function in full capacity after the easing in lockdown,” said Bhanushali.
“Since the APMCs are still under the state government and the recent amendment in the Essential Commodities Act is separate from the model APMC Act, the state government can make a decision in waiving off the cess,” said Bhanushali.
The purpose of the central government is to enable farmers to get better price of their products. However, traders claim that they need a level playing field to remain in the business. However, traders at the wholesale market have a different say. “The present amendment will help big retail chains who will buy from the open market because there is no such cess there,” said a trader. He added that we can compete with all retail chains if there is no cess.
A senior official from the APMC administration said that the purpose of the amendment is to provide a barrier-free interstate and intra-state trade outside the APMC. “Now, the private player can directly buy produce from farmers in large quantity and farmers will get the actual price of their produce,” added the official.