BENGALURU: Bengalureans may face grocery shortage in the coming days if an indefinite strike launched on Friday by vendors of the Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC) at Yeshwanthpur, against online companies supplying grocery stocks to retailers (in a business-to-business, or B2B, model), is allowed to continue.
The strike will affect the wholesale supply of groceries from APMC Yard to neighbourhood kirana stores. If the strike continues for over a week, about 1.5 lakh small retail stores across the city will face dwindling stocks.
Over 2,000 vendors at APMC Yard have shut their business indefinitely. On a daily average, they conduct total business worth Rs 50 crore. Over one lakh families depend on the business at APMC Yard Yeshwanthpur.
According to members of the APMC Okoota at Yeshwanthpur, which has called for the strike, as of now the neighbourhood stores are stocked for about a week, but beyond that shortages will be felt by residents if the state government fails to act.
At this point there appear no signs that the state government will act. Agriculture Minister Shivashankar Reddy told TNIE: “Anyone can participate in the online B2B system. At APMC yard, there are more middlemen who benefit than farmers. Online is the future. The APMC should become more competent. These issues can be sorted out, but they should not conduct bandhs like this.”
The main grouse of the vendors is aimed at APMC authorities issuing warehouse licences to online app-based companies, which is causing losses to local traders and farmers.
Nagaraj, a wholesale vendor of food grains for 32 years, said, “The retailers in Bengaluru and customers would come to us, but after the entry of online firms, which also supply directly to customers, it has hit our business. My business has come down by 40 per cent.’’
Javed Khan, a sugar merchant, claimed that his business is down by 60 per cent.
Added to their woes is the fact that the vendors at APMC pay 1.5 per cent of their profits as B2B cess, while bigger companies pay just 0.25 per cent.
B Johnson, who owns three trucks that transport groceries from APMC to various shops in Bengaluru, said his business has crashed. “We used to transport 15 tonnes of groceries, which has now come down to three tonnes. These B2B companies are taking away our coolies, we are not getting men either.”
“We are small-time traders and cannot compete with them,” said Salim, agrocery merchant.
Shivu, who has been working as a coolie at a shop for 20 years, said, “We are seven people working here, and if the owner does not get business, why would he employs all of us. After working here for so many years, we do not have any openings outside either.”