e-Nam, the agricultural portal has been impacting heavily both farmers and consumers of the state
Onion is being sold at Rs 23 per kg in the wholesale markets of Kolhapur in Maharastra; this is in contrast to the price of onion (Rs 44 per kg) in the markets of Kolkata and the price in retail is anywhere between Rs 50 and Rs 60. Brinjal in Akbarpur wholesale market of Uttar Pradesh is being sold around Rs 8 per kg in contrast to Rs 22 in Kolkata; retail price of brinjal in Kolkata is between Rs 40 and 45. Potato’s wholesale price in West Bengal is Rs 3.80 as against Rs 5 in any of the wholesale markets in Maharastra or Madhya Pradesh.
Blame it on the failure of West Bengal in getting connected to the all India electronic agricultural platform (e-NAM i.e National Agricultural Marketing portal) which has been impacting both the farmers and consumers of the state. In fact, e-NAM, the agricultural portal of the union government which was launched by Prime Minister Modi on April, 2016, has succeeded in establishing a chain between wholesale traders and wholesale customers among more than 475 remote agricultural markets of the country. The wholesale traders, after registering themselves in the portal, have been trading in more than 90 varieties of agricultural products across India.
Among many an important measure for agricultural reforms that the Narendra Modi government has so far undertaken since assumption of power in 2014, e-NAM is one of them ; through this portal, the marginal farmers have been immensely benefited as not only could they avoid the nexus between middlemen and other non-traders for getting a right price for their produce, the farmers can now get the actual information of the price of various listed agricultural products that are up for sale in the wholesale markets of the country, merely by clicking the mouse on the portal.
After dillydallying for a long time, the West Bengal state agricultural department has now decided to connect to this portal and around 16 markets producing various agricultural products will shortly start trading through e-NAM. Among the markets that will figure in the site from Bengal are Siliguri, Bishnupur, Karimpur, Dhupguri, Parulia and Karimpur besides Phalakata. “ These 16 markets specialise in certain key agri products which have demand across the country. “The farmers in these markets, it’s true, have been suffering owing to lack of promotional efforts to market their produce,” said Sanatan Hazra, a senior officer in the state agricultural department. Prices of vegetables in city markets have been quite exhorbitant this winter and there has been hardly any let up in them. Prices of cucumber, carrot and peas among others have been ruling very high and only potato, which grows abundantly in Bengal these days, has not hit consumers below the belt.
According to the state agricultural minister Tapan Dasgupta, the state government has convened a meeting of the state agricultural distribution board this month where the members would discuss inclusion of other markets from the state in the portal to facilitate easy trading of the several other agricultural products in various parts of the country. Among the products in West Bengal that have the potential to trigger a bull run in the e-market are strawberry and pineapple, both grown in North Bengal.
Strawberries which once used to be imported from Patna, are being grown abundantly in Siliguri, thanks to pioneering initiative of the Centre for Floriculture and Agri-Management department of the North Bengal University. Speaking over phone from Siliguri, the department spokesman Amarendra Pandey said, “ We mainly provide guidance to alternative farming to farmers when they are tired of growing traditional items like jute, rice or wheat. We have given guidance to a farmer about growing strawberries in view of the temperate climate in North Bengal; and now, he’s keen on expanding his cultivation.”
Sukumar Mallik, the farmer, who once thought of selling out his parental land in view of a drastic fall in the production of rice, approached the floriculture department in the North Bengal University. The department advised him to plant strawberry seeds after a proper mix of organic farming, especially cow-dung in the soil, Mallik hardly wasted time and did exactly what he was asked to do. He not only reaped a bumper harvest, the taste of the strawberries was so tantalising that once his produce would reach the wholesale market, traders would start bidding among themselves for awarding him the highest price ! Sukumar’s yield of strawberry from one bigha of land is more than 15 kg and he sells the same in the wholesale market at a price between Rs 450 and 500 per kg. No wonder Sukumar is endeavouring to expand his business by buying out lands from the neighbouring farmers. Other farmers who have seen Sukumar’s fortunes skyrocketing fast, have now begun approaching the North Bengal University to help them grow strawberries. “ We expect Siliguri will shortly turn into a major strawberry producing area by end of this year as it does not take much time for the fruit to grow,” Pandey pointed out.
But why the delay on the part of the West Bengal government in enlisting the markets of the state in the national e-portal? According to sources in the state agricultural department, the union agricultural ministry imposed certain conditions for enrolment of the Bengal markets in the portal. The conditions envisaged simplification of the methods of sale and purchase of items under the West Bengal Agricultural Produces Marketing (Regulation) Act. The Small Farmers’ Agri-business Consortium which has been constituted under the aegis of the union agricultural ministry for launching and monitoring the portal, has asked the state government to first bring the markets under e-trading, introduce a single licence to enable the traders to trade through the e-platform and create a single-point levy collection centre to abolish any practice of multi-level collection. Since the Act of the state did not have the necessary provisions, markets of West Bengal failed to register themselves in the e-portal at the beginning. With the state government introducing the required amendments in the act, the markets are now free to enrol themselves and start the e-trading from early February, sources said.
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