Weekly farmer markets in Maharashtra are set to be revamped, with the state government issuing fresh guidelines allocating specific responsibilities to officials of the Department of Agriculture, Agriculture Technology Management Agency and farmer producer companies.
The scheme — ‘Sant Shiromani Shri Savta Mali Farmers’ Weekly Market’ — was launched in August 2016. What began with a promising concept to put farmers in direct touch with consumers by setting up weekly vegetable markets later turned into an opportunity for local political leaders to set up local weekly bazaars in their respective wards without any proper clearances from civic bodies.
Farmers markets, however, had struck a chord with consumers who were looking for fresh quality produce and liked the idea of directly being in touch with farmers. For farmers, it meant a direct platform to reach out to consumers eliminating the middleman and an opportunity to get better prices.
Since 2016, farmers weekly markets earned revenues worth Rs 651.20 crore through sale of around 1,30,240 tonne of agri-produce, according to data with the Maharashtra State Agriculture Marketing Board. Around 76 farmer markets are now operational in different cities of the state.
Swami Samarth Farmers Producers Company run by Narendra Pawar has crossed Rs 100-crore turnover through 24 markets run on a weekly basis with vegetables being procured from 4,500 farmers. “From a system where the farmer barely earned 27% of the cost of his produce, he now not only gets his money in full, but also has an assured market. For the consumer, there is the assurance of a stable supply of fresh vegetables and fair prices,” he pointed out.
Madhukar Kangane, director, Shetmal Agri Producer Company, said this concept has generated rural employment. Farmers are now producing vegetables according to demand, he said. Kangane’s outfit has been supplying vegetables to consumers at Malabar Hill, Breach Candy and Worli Police Camp in Mumbai. Weekly markets in Mumbai had earned revenues of around Rs 25 crore annually, he said. Markets in smaller cities earned Rs 1-2 crore annually, he revealed.
Mayur Pawar, director, Wingrow Agritech Farmer Producers Company, said while the concept is good, the implementation needs to be tightened up. Land availability for markets is a major issue. Besides, outside elements take advantage of actual farmers by bullying them and setting up stalls themselves, he said. The fresh guidelines bring a clarity on the roles by various stakeholders and ensures accountability, he pointed out.
The government has issued fresh guidelines where taluka agriculture officers have been entrusted with the responsibility of planning and creating awareness about demand for various kinds of farm produce, area-wise planning of crops, supply of input material and transport arrangement for the produce to respective markets.