13 May, 2021

Food Bowl Goes Against The Grain

Why is Punjab seething at the farm bill? The state earns Rs 4,000 crore on trading fees at the mandis, and some 40,000 commission agents make Rs 1,600 crore. That’s at stake.

Photograph by Tribhuvan Tiwari
Food Bowl Goes Against The Grain

In the food bowl of Punjab and Haryana, the farm-to-market apparatus pivots on a time-tested template—the farmer produces, the aarthiya or commission agent helps sell the produce for a fee, the Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC) regulates sales and collects taxes, and the trading happens at the mandi. This winding process involves about 70,000 aarthiyas, 18 lakh seasonal labourers and 8,500 employees at market committees and mandis or wholesale markets. Quite naturally, as the numbers suggest, there’s big money. Sample this: the trading fee on wheat and paddy brings Punjab revenue up to Rs 4,000 crore a year. That aside, about 40,000 aarthiyas in the state earn about Rs 1,600 crore as ‘commission’, while the earnings of around 10 lakh workers engaged in loading and unloading grains at mandis stand at Rs 1,100 crore, according to 2019 figures.

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