These officers map mandis across India and share trade trends with farmers. (Express)
Onion growers of Nashik have always wondered how the onion they produce and sell at Rs 1,000 per quintal at Lasalgaon’s market, fetches more than double that price for traders who sell in markets of Chennai or Delhi. The key factor that allows traders to corner higher profits is their in-depth knowledge of markets and their access to market intelligence.
It was this market intelligence which the Maharashtra State Agricultural Marketing Board (MSAMB) wanted to tap when it became the first such Board in the country to appoint trade representative in other states to help Maharashtra's farmers sell their produce in markets outside the state.
Sunil Pawar, Managing Director of the Board, pointed out how the promotion of domestic inter-state trade had often taken a back seat to export promotions from the perspective of increasing earnings of farmers. “The fact is that inter-state trade is much larger than exports both in terms of volume and value. However, it is in the hand of traders who have developed the supply chains over the last many years,” he confided. Traders, Pawar said, knew the demand, the markets as well as the mechanism necessary to ensure inter-state trade. Citing the example of onions Pawar said how Maharashtra produced 32-35 per cent of the nation’s total and supplied the bulb to almost all markets in North and North East India. “But it is the traders who control the trade. So if they have to send onions from Lasalgaon in Nashik to say the Kohima in Nagaland, the supply chain is only known to them. Farmers or farmer groups who wish to tap these markets would certainly be at a disadvantage,” he explained.
The best way to understand markets, Pawar said, was to be in them. Thus, the Board decided to post their officers in the markets. “Their brief was simple -- try to understand the demand of the markets, identify the key players and see how our farmers can tap in the system,” stated Pawar. Officers were posted in the major consumption states such as Punjab, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal and Delhi.
In the first phase, which was launched in December 2018, the emphasis was on fruits such as grapes, pomegranate, banana and the quintessential onion for which Maharashtra is the leading grower in the country. Thus, in the case of Delhi, officers sent there stated that the Azadpur mandi receives 10 to 15 trucks of pomegranates from Maharashtra during a season. “The potential for our farmers is immense — they can tie up with agencies like Mother Dairy that run retail fruit and vegetable shops in the national capital,” a report read. Similarly, for Rajasthan, the officer in charge identified markets where fruits and vegetables from Maharashtra can make inroads.
But understanding the scope of the market and tapping that markets are too different things. “In case the farmers go the markets they should also know who to sell their produce. So our reports also included identification of major traders who would be willing to buy,” explained Pawar. Also, the officers liaison with their counterparts with other state agricultural marketing boards to ensure action is taken in case farmers do not receive payments within time.
The reports and the contacts developed by the officers were shared online with the marketing Board sharing the same with farmer groups who wished to take part in this trade. Market intelligence, Pawar was shared with farmers on various forums organises by the Board. As a corollary to this scheme, the Board is also fine-tuning another scheme which will provide farmers with road transport subsidies to carry out trade outside Maharashtra.
In the first year of its launch, Pawar said the state had seen increased activity in farmers producer companies trading in onion in Chennai and Delhi. Also, farmers from the state were seen taking grapes, bananas and pomegranates to markets of Rajasthan, Punjab, Delhi.
“This scheme needs to be taken up at the national level. We hope the central government would pitch in with a similar scheme at the national level which would see states appointing officers in other states to find markets for their farmers. Thus, if officers from Maharashtra are appointed in Rajasthan to find markets for their onion growers, officers from Rajasthan can be appointed here to find markets for their mustard or wheat growers. Overall, it will help farmers better access to markets thus enabling them to double their income,” signed off Pawar.