By Prabhudatta Mishra
Aware that a thriving electronic national agricultural market will enable farmers to reach buyers across the country rather than being hamstrung by middlemen controlling organised mandis, the Centre will soon launch a facility for transporters to place competitive bids for jobs of moving agriculture goods. State governments will be empowered to issue licences to winning bidders, whether or not they are registered with the agricultural produce marketing committees.
"Currently there are cartels operating in the sphere of transportation of commodities from mandis after farmers sell their crops," an official said.
"The existing network of transporters practically doesn't allow others to come inside the mandis to lift the commodities and often forces traders to corner the job works and even dictate the rates," the official said. He, however, admitted that breaking this intransigent system is not easy even through the electronic-National Agricultural Market (e-NAM) unless trade is allowed outside the physical mandi platforms.
e-NAM is an online trading platform for agricultural commodities across states. The turnover of trade on e-NAM increased 24% on year to Rs 14,000 crore during April-October this fiscal. The volume went up 19% to 44 lakh tonne during the period. Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh are among the top performers in terms of generating business on the electronic platform.
Last year, e-NAM started providing logistics support to buyers in transporting the purchased commodities from one state to another. Currently, there is a private-sector facility where a trader has a choice to book a truck online based on quotations received from transporters. The proposed facility of competitive bidding on the e-NAM platform will be a vast improvement upon this, where any transporter would be able to bid to get the orders after getting registered on the portal. The registration will be open for all including youth who want to enter this business.
During an interaction under Pragati on November 6, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had asked the agriculture secretary to work with the road transport ministry on a new start-up model of logistics support, particularly with regard to transfer of agricultural products from one state to another. Since e-NAM has started inter-state trading since December 2018, logistics would play a key role in expansion of the trade on this electronic platform. All the states must come together and use a common, integrated platform for smooth operation, Modi had said.
The government aims to integrate 200 mandis this year and 215 mandis in 2020-21 with the e-NAM platform. A total of 585 mandis have connected to the platform in less than two years of its launch in April 2016. Finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman also said in early November that the APMC (agricultural produce marketing committee) law had outlived its utility and states should adopt the e-NAM system to offer farmers a better platform for price discovery. "E-NAM has been pushed very much by the Central government. We will ensure that states are cajoled to reject the APMC Act, which had served its purpose," she said.