Why in news?
- The disruption in supply chains as a result of the lockdown has spotlighted the relevance of a nearly two-decade-old initiative to reach fresh produce directly to consumers in Maharashtra, bypassing the mandis.
- The essential features of this alternative market channel — decentralisation and direct-to-home delivery — will remain valuable even after the lockdown, when efforts to avoid crowding in the wholesale markets are likely to continue.
The idea is to create smaller, less congested markets in urban areas with the participation of farmers’ groups and Farmer Producer Companies (FPCs), so that growers of vegetables and fruit have direct access to consumers.
How the markets work?
The government and MSAMB identify farmer groups and FPCs, and form clusters; local bodies choose the market sites and link the markets for direct delivery to cooperative housing societies.
In the time of coronavirus pandemic
- Traffic of both buyers and sellers in these decentralised markets can be controlled more effectively than in wholesale mandis — a key advantage when social distancing is critical. Most FPCs have minimised contact, and have taken to selling pre-packed, customised packets of vegetables.
- The farmers’ groups have filled much of the gap created by the shuttering of wholesale markets.
What’s in it for farmers?
- The start of the pandemic coincided with the peak vegetable harvesting season. As the markets were locked down, there was a threat to the crop in over 100 lakh hectares in the country. A significant part of the produce is several states has made its way to these markets, softening the blow to farmers.
- More importantly, larger numbers of vegetable growers in Maharashtra have got into direct selling to consumers. The practices of rudimentary packing, sorting and branding are being inculcated in farmers, as they pack and send pre-ordered packets to housing societies.