Direct agricultural marketing promoted by the Indian government is fast changing the environment in which Indian farmers sell their produce, helping a better administrative system replace the harassing clutches of middlemen.
Agriculture is the mainstay of the Indian economy and is the principal livelihood of about 58.4 percent of the country’s population. However, the agricultural system in India largely remains inefficient, and has been monopolized by trading and middlemen communities.
“Direct marketing is important to avoid middlemen. The middleman plays a very important role as he purchases products from farmers at a lower price and sells it at higher cost to the consumer. Direct marketing puts the producer in direct touch with the consumer and eliminates the middleman,” said Dr. B. Srinivasan, director of research at Dr. Y.S.R. Horticultural University in Andhra Pradesh.
To help farmers come out of the clutches of middlemen and to promote direct marketing, the Indian government passed the Agricultural Produce Market Committees (APMC) Act to regulate the functioning of wholesale agricultural markets across the country.
According to a report by Governance Knowledge Center and One World Foundation India , the purpose of these regulated markets was to promote organized marketing of agricultural commodities in the country and ensure that farmer get a reasonable share in profits.
One of the most successful models under direct marketing initiative has been the Rythu Bazars in Andhra Pradesh state of the country.
The Rythu Bazar markets provide facilities to farmers for selling products to consumers under a proper administrative system and government protection. Presently, there are 106 Rythu Bazars operating in the 23 districts of Andhra Pradesh.
However, Rythu Bazars also pose a challenge. “Rythu Bazar provides a place for the farmer to everyday sell his products directly to the consumer. But if every day the same farmer comes to the market, then who will do the work back in the farm?” said Srinivasan.
According to him this left many farmers with no other option but to search for the middlemen as he has to toil in the fields.
“The best solution in this context is for 30 farmers to form a cooperative. Every farmer should then take turns to go to the market and the rest can work in the fields.”
Cooperatives in this case are an autonomous association of farmers who voluntarily cooperate for their economic benefit.
Srinivasan explains that farmers’ cooperative societies have been very successful in direct marketing in Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh states of the country.