Lockdown provides unexpected reform opportunities. Seize them

A long-pending agricultural reform in India is the unshackling of near monopoly of Agriculture Produce Market Committees (APMC) on the fast-growing fruit and vegetable wholesale markets. The APMCs add layers of intermediation between farmers and consumers and, in the process, corner a substantial part of the value.

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Reforms in this area have generally tried to legally remove the monopoly that APMCs have and create space for other players in the intermediation chain. The resulting competition is expected to both reduce wastage and give farmers a higher share of the value of the produce. But so far changes have failed to yield satisfactory results.

Woman crossing a makeshift bamboo barricade installed to contain the movement of people during a nationwide lockdown in the wake of coronavirus pandemic, in Agartala (ANI Photo)

News from Maharashtra of district administrations trying to ensure essential services show that the lockdown has acted as a catalyst for agricultural reforms in some parts. District administrations are facilitating direct contact between farmers’ groups and urban housing complexes. This allows farmers to directly sell produce to the end consumer and reap the benefits that were earlier cornered by middlemen. These initial steps need to be consolidated and built upon even after the lockdown ends. Every reform opportunity has to be seized if India is to recover from the economic impact of the lockdown.

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