Prof. Trilochan Sastry is a faculty at IIM Bangalore; is the founder of FARMVEDA, a cooperative that sells products directly to consumers; co-founder of Association for Democratic Reforms, whose goal is to improve governance and strengthen democracy in the area of Electoral and Political Reforms.
Your views on the GOI’s recent reform on allowing farmers to sell their produce directly to consumers
Allowing farmers to sell directly in principle is good. In reality, the country is very diverse. In more than five districts we work in, there is no functioning Agriculture Produce Marketing Committee (APMC). Here, farmers sell to local middlemen who come to the village. In many other places where there is an APMC, there are MSP (minimum support price) procurement centres run by the government – mostly for rice, wheat, and of late, for cotton, pulses, and even oilseeds.
Even where APMC and MSP function, informally a large number of transactions take place directly between farmers and local traders or middlemen.
How will this rule change current situation?
Corporates, agri companies, agri start-ups, food start-ups and so on will welcome this as they can directly buy from farmers. This will be a very small part of the total harvest in the country. But it will be written about endlessly.
FPOs (Farmer Producer Organizations) can sell directly now, even earlier they could. We have been doing it for 15 years. Other FPOs have also been doing it.
Ambiguity about land ownership
There are several types of land and since it is a State subject, every State has its own rules. How the Central notification affect ground reality remains to be seen.
There is free hold, non-Dalit land. Some states like Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu always had free sale available. Some states like Karnataka allowed it if the buyer was a farmer – meaning buyer had registered agri land in his/her name for at least five years from any part of the country.
Whether Karnataka government will allow them to sell to non-agri buyers is a question mark (there are again special provisions to get exemption). Now Industries can buy directly from farmers of Karnataka. No idea if this is good or not. Land mafias are already there and many more will come up or existing ones will become stronger.
There are assigned lands owned by Government and leased out for 99 years to farmers. This is a complicated thing and no idea if this can be sold as free hold in the new notification.
See Impact of lockdown on agriculture
An MIT and IIT grad, Prof. Sastry has extensive research work.
Featured Image Credit Youtube, Uploaded by iesaonline