Fruit and vegetable growers are among those most affected by the 21-day national blockade imposed to prevent the spread of the coronavirus (Covid-19). This is reflected in a strong decrease in the flow of fruit and vegetables for Mandi’s wholesale trade, which is either closed or limited.

For example, the Committee on the Marketing of Plant Products (CMPA) announced a closure near Mumbai because of concerns about the spread of the virus. The Gultekdi Wholesale Market in Pune also closed on Thursday and CMPA’s Vasha Vasha Food Grains called a meeting on Saturday to decide whether the market should be closed.

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A similar situation can be observed for several large fruit and vegetable baskets throughout the country, as these are either closed or allow traders to place limited quantities of goods on the market. The situation is such that in some places the farmers decided to throw away vegetables and milk because they could not reach Mandis due to lack of transport. In some places, such as in Uttar Pradesh, cases of uprooting of vegetables have also been recorded.

This resulted in a reduction of the supply of potatoes in Agri-Mandi by 30%, or 1,400 tonnes per day. The arrival of the ark was supposed to end in Lasalgaon, but it was closed. According to the Credit Suisse study, despite anecdotal evidence of a bumper harvest, market entry was down 50-95% on the previous year. During the blockade, all perishable foodstuffs and grains fell.

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The report indicates that with the rabies harvesting season in full swing, markets are expected to harvest cereals such as wheat, legumes such as khana and summer crops such as mangoes. He said the reasons for the low income range from lack of trucks to lack of manpower for loading and unloading materials.

Despite the closure of several mandas, producers of cereals and legumes are in a better position because their products are non-perishable.

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To defuse the situation, the EU government wrote to all states last week to allow farmers to sell directly without entering the market. To date, however, no state has adhered to these instructions.

The problem is not only access to the market. Farmers’ leaders say that the big problem caused by the blockade is the lack of ready resources that could limit the purchase of seeds and fertilizer for the summer harvest and even extend into the next planting season, which begins in June.

Bhagwan Meena, a young farmer leader from Madhya Pradesh, said that even before the closure of the Mandis, prices for some primitive slave harvests, such as tubs and mustard in Madhya Pradesh, were 20-30% below the minimum support price. Well, if there’s a jump after the search warrant opens, the prices go down, of course.

П. Chengal Reddy, advisor to the Consortium of Indian Farmers Associations (CIFA), said the current labor shortage could extend into the next Harrif season as migrant workers try to avoid precarious employment. She suggested that, as with food grains, the government should organise the loading of trolleys in all the major fruit-growing centres of the main producing countries. These issues have once again drawn attention to the need for reforms in the area of the marketing of agricultural products.

Neelkanth Mishra, managing director of Equity Market Research at Credit Suisse, said the current situation could be used as an opportunity for reform. Because the traditional (agricultural) markets do not function, parallel channels are created. Some states temporarily allow wholesale buyers, such as grocery chains and e-commerce companies, to buy goods directly from farmers. Farmers can also sell their products directly to consumers. If they were the last to close down, they could eventually dismantle the CMA’s monopoly, which many describe as inefficient.

Reforms in the area of marketing are long overdue, even though the central government has issued a CMPA model law inviting states to join the online national platform for the agricultural market (eNAM). However, little progress has been made.

Vijay Sardana, an agrifood expert, said it is time to create an alternative mechanism for farmers to sell their products in cooperation with CMPA. ATMC can continue to function and direct purchases from farmers are encouraged.