NEW DELHI: Long-awaited agrarian marketing reforms got a decisive push in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, as the Union Cabinet on Wednesday approved three Ordinances to unshackle farmers from restrictive state laws on mandis (APMC Act) and price fluctuations (Essential Commodities Act), besides allowing unhindered contract farming.
The Centre took the Ordinance route after all persuasion to prod states on agricultural marketing reforms failed.Freeing farmers from compulsions to sell their produce only to registered licensee traders of state governments under the Agriculture Produce Marketing Committee Act (APMC), the Cabinet gave the nod to “The Farming Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and facilitation) Ordinance, 2020.” No state law will affect sell-purchase of agricultural produce outside the mandi perimeter. Buyers would just need to have PAN cards, rules for which will be framed by the Centre, said Union minister for agriculture Narendra Singh Tomar after the Cabinet meeting.
Doing away with policy ad-hocism through stock-holding limits and banning exports to curb price rise, the Cabinet approved the second Ordinance to amend the Essential Commodities Act to take cereals, onions, pulses, edible oils, oilseeds and potatoes out of its purview. The the law can be changed only in the event of war or excessive price rise, added Tomar.
To promote the concept of ‘one nation, one agricultural market’, the Cabinet through the third Ordinance allowed farmers and bulk buyers to enter into contracts at guaranteed prices, adding no state laws will affect such transactions. Farmers will also be able to get part of the additional value at the time of delivery of the produce. It does not mean leasing of land, said Tomar, adding that in the event of crop failure, only advance paid to them by the buyers could be recovered.
Payments to farmers must be made by buyers within three days of delivery of the produce, while dispute resolution will first be through mediation at the sub-divisional magistrate level and the final award by the district magistrate.NITI Aayog’s proposal in 2015 to reform state farm laws had drawn a tepid response.
Ordinance route taken
The Cabinet decided on ordinances because states refused to introduce reforms. There was vested interest in mandis as their managers have political clout since they are money spinners