With the majority of Agriculture Produce Market Committees (APMC) closed amid the lockdown, farmers in Maharashtra are dumping vegetables and fruits in garbage containers.
The State government had announced that the lockdown would not affect the transport and trade of agricultural commodities. But the closure of APMCs in Mumbai, Pune and other cities has left farmers in the lurch.
Farmers in south Maharashtra dumped their produce in garbage bins as they could not transport it to the Pune and Mumbai APMCs. Farmers’ organisations have demanded that the State government find a way to start APMC operations and also facilitate the selling of farmers’ goods in cities. If the State government is not in a position to open APMCs, then state agencies must purchase vegetables and fruits from farmers and supply them to the city markets, they added.
They have also insisted that the State must assess the loss incurred by farmers and compensate them.
Mumbai and Pune get the bulk of their vegetable, milk and fruit supplies from western Maharashtra. However, with the lockdown, the transport system stands disrupted; and with the closure of APMCs, the entire supply chain has collapsed.
State Cooperative and Marketing Minister Balasaheb Patil said the APMCs were asked to stop operations due to rapid rise of Covid-19 cases in urban areas. However, he added, the State has allowed farmers and traders to coordinate and continue with the supply of vegetables. He also assured that cities will not face a shortage of vegetables and fruits.
Shetkari Sanghatana President Anil Ghanwat said the police must not beat farmers heading to cities to sell their produce. Many small farmers are bringing vegetables and fruits to sell directly in housing societies and the police must cooperate with them, he added.
Meanwhile, the pressure is mounting on Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray to announce concrete measures for the agriculture sector. Thackeray is holding a series of meetings with his cabinet colleagues and bureaucrats. He has already announced the extension of the lockdown till April 30 and is likely to spell out the steps taken by his government to lessen its impact.