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Karnataka legislature panel favours bringing back regulated agri trade

The Congress government, in July 2023, moved a Bill to restore the earlier restrictions. While the Bill was passed in the Assembly, it did not make it through the Council, which decided to refer it to a select committee headed by Agricultural Marketing Minister Shivanand Patil.
Last Updated 14 February 2024, 17:18 IST

Bengaluru: The Siddaramaiah administration is likely to introduce a reworked Bill to bring technology at state-run markets or yards while undoing the previous BJP government’s decision to liberalise agricultural trading.

A select committee that was reviewing the Karnataka Agricultural Produce Marketing (Regulation and Development) (Amendment) Bill tabled its report in the Legislative Council on Wednesday.

"The select committee has agreed to restore the law that existed before amendments enacted when the BJP was in power. It is likely to come up in the ongoing session of the legislature," a member of the panel said.

The Bill will restore the powers of the Agricultural Produce Marketing Committees (APMCs) to regulate sale of farm produce.

In 2020, the BJP government amended the APMC law allowing farmers to sell wherever they want as opposed to them having to trade only in notified markets or yards (mandis). Penalties on farmers and traders transacting outside the jurisdiction of the notified markets were removed.

In fact, this reform came with the three farm laws that the union government ended up repealing in 2021 following protests by farmers. However, the BJP government in the state did not follow suit.

The Congress government, in July 2023, moved a Bill to restore the earlier restrictions. While the Bill was passed in the Assembly, it did not make it through the Council, which decided to refer it to a select committee headed by Agricultural Marketing Minister Shivanand Patil.

The select committee visited four APMC markets - Kolar, Shivamogga, Kalaburagi and Raichur. It was only in Raichur where the committee was met with views in favour of the BJP's move.

Mostly, farmers who met the committee feared exploitation outside notified markets. They said they want the old system back to feel protected. However, the committee was also told by various stakeholders that the existing APMC system needs to improve.

Karnataka has 167 main markets and 401 sub-markets spread over 8,584 acres developed at a cost of Rs 7,000 crore.

In its report comprising 27 recommendations, the select committee has sought an online system for all market stakeholders - farmers, brokers, traders, commission agents and others - to enhance transparency and efficiency in operations. The committee has also recommended a faceless licensing system and simplification in the process.

To help financially-weak APMCs, the select committee has recommended assistance not more than 5 per cent of revenues to create a fund for their upkeep.

For dispute redressal, the select committee has suggested a state-level ombudsman for time-bound interventions.

Consolidation of APMC property data, setting up cold storage facilities, infrastructure for exports and an international market in and around Devanahalli are some of the other recommendations.

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(Published 14 February 2024, 17:18 IST)

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