APMCs across India worry about workers, traders health over Covid-19 curfew

Mandis in Maharashtra and Gujarat are grappling to continue business for daily need essentials such as fruits, vegetables and food grains amidst curfew over outbreak, while smaller commodities like spices have decided to remain close till March 31. In north India, vegetable mandis are also complaining in line with western India of lower offtake down the line following curfew.

Maharashtra government has also reassured that all vegetable shops and kiranas will remain exempted. The issue of workers and traders safety and health are being addressed with sanitisation.

Vashi mandis in Navi Mumbai will be closed, including vegetables and grains due to curfew. Spices, dryfruit are closed till 31 while onion potato section there will operate alternatively, said sources.

Most have issues of safety of traders and workers and arhatiyas coming there which causes big gathering. “In a meeting with representatives of all sections here, formation of committee to suggest ways to operate going ahead was decided which will address all above issues, including maintaining supply of essentials,” said Nilesh Veera, director, Vashi APMC.

Grain market is yet not sure whether they will be able to open market on Thursday, following traders and workers concerns of safety and security amidst curfew.

“We have advised the APMC Vashi to remain open. Being foodgrains, fruits and vegetables a perishable commodity, we cannot allow shutdown of the entire mandi. While mathadis and other such workers have demanded protection through sufficient supply of sanitisers and masks, we have advised them to buy which we would reimburse. Thus, markets would remain open but supply of commodities is likely to be affected badly due to sealing of state and district boarders,” said Sunil Singatkar, Director, Vashi APMC.

Bulk buyers like hypermarkets, large retail chains and bulk consumers have started purchasing fruits and vegetables directly from farmers in order to ensure uninterrupted supply of these perishables to consumers.

“Arrivals of fruits, vegetables and other commodities have already declined drastically to mandis as farmers have slowed harvesting amid uncertainty in selling market. Also, direct selling to bulk buyers has also hit fruits’ and vegetables’ supply to mandis. Supply of perishable goods is likely to remain lower till Covid-19 issue normalises,” said Santosh Patil, Chairman, APMC Sangli.

Gujarat Grain mandis shut

In Gujarat, while there has been no official circular from the state government’s agriculture and farmers’ welfare department, engaged in wholesale trading of non-perishables like grains and pulses have shut operations for the time being. Unjha market dealing in non-essentials decided to close.

“We are monitoring all in the state. The government has not given any directive to close but we are encouraging staggered operations so that logistics and supply chain network is established and there is no disruption to it. Those APMCs dealing in non-perishables like grains and pulses are suspending operations on their own after consultation with farmer groups. Even dairies are functioning and we are monitoring supply of milk and other necessities,” Manish Bhardwaj, Secretary – Agriculture, Farmers Welfare & Co-operation Department, Government of Gujarat told Business Standard.

Azadpur Mandi see glut

New Delhi’s Azadpur Mandi also has a similar problem that Mumbai market is facing. Arrivals are more while small traders lifting very less.

“Till today fruits trucks are arriving in the mandi but there isn’t any forward sale as entire city and its adjoining areas under a lockdown while labourers have also fled to their villages fearing a crackdown,” said Rajkumar Bhatia, a prominent fruit merchant from Delhi’s Azadpur Mandi.

He said if the situation continues for few more days, they will have to cut down on arrivals as else there will be a pile up in the mandis. “We received almost 80-90 trucks of onion today in Azadpur, but just around 10-20 trucks could be sold as there was no vehicle available to carry the good forward to the retailers one due to the COVID-19 lockdown and also because of coming Navratri, no one is willing to purchase onions,” said Rajinder Sharma, former head of Azadpur Mandi and a prominent onion trade.

He said potato arrivals on the other hand was robust and its demand was also good as during the Navratri people prefer eating potatoes.

Punjab mandis closed

In Punjab, most grain and vegetable markets and mandis are closed today due to the curfew clamped by the state government in several places. Being a wheat procurement season, traders said that purchases by state agencies might need to be delayed by a at least a fortnight as resources are unavailable.

“We are hearing that some sort of relaxation might be granted by the state government for mandis to operate smoothly,” said Omkar Singh Khaira, a leader from the BKU (Rajewal) faction in Punjab.