Rythu Bazars were introduced with a view to eliminate the middlemen and arrange facilities for the farmers to sell their produce directly to the consumers at reasonable rates fixed every day. The scheme benefits both the farmers and the consumers. Regulated market yards for fruits and vegetables are functioning only at a few centres. The marketing system for fruits and vegetables is now in the hands of middlemen. Middlemen exist at various levels between the farmers and the consumers and exploit through malpractices in weighing, handling and payments. Large number of small farmers are unable to effectively bargain for better price in the wholesale market. Inefficiencies in the wholesale markets result in a long chain of intermediaries, multiple handling, loss of quality and increase the gap between the producer and consumer prices. Large number of small retailers, each handling small quantities, create high overheads leading to high margin on produces. Also In the absence of adequate facilities for storage and preservation, farmers are forced to make distress sales. At present,market yards are mostly set up by the State Governments. For setting up of agricultural markets, funds are sourced from National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) through Rural Infrastructure Development Fund (RIDF) and National Cooperative Development Corporation (NCDC). However, infrastructure available to farmers for selling their produce still remains inadequate.Rythu Bazar is thus an initiative to create infrastructure facilities to enable farmers to sell their products directly to retail consumers thereby ensuring that farmers realize better prices and consumers receive fresh vegetables, fruits, etc., at reasonable prices and thus address constraints in agri-marketing infrastructure. Typically, a Rythu Bazar covers 10 to 15 villages and at least 250 farmers including 10 groups (self help groups) who are selected by a team consisting of Mandal Revenue Officers, Horticulture Officers and Agriculture Officers in the villages to operate in the bazars. Joint Collectors of the concerned districts ensure that adequate transport facilities are arranged for transport of goods to Rythu Bazars in consultation with State Road Transport Corporation. In addition, online information of prices and commodities movements is provided on the internet. Outreach and Potential: More than 100 Rythu Bazars are in existence benefitting 4500 farmers and large number of consumers. Rythu Bazars can play a key role in addressing some of above given marketing problems, and there is thus a clear need to facilitate similar marketing infrastructure throughout the country.
If the Rythu Bazars were formed to provide a platform for farmers to sell their produce directly to customers and in the process benefit both the parties, the idea seems to have taken a beating. There are problems galore here as customers fume over high prices, while the farmers are unhappy over the entry of middlemen and poor and inadequate facilities.
“Farmers do not stick to prescribed rates. Parking space is insufficient and unhygienic conditions are making us avoid these markets. Farmers too are quite rude with us,” says a customer, Sekhar.
Five complaints are being registered in each Rythu Bazar pertaining to sanitation, parking and exorbitant prices as farmers too are angry over the fixed prices. Most are not keen on carrying their business, particularly in the absence of proper storage facilities, problems in transporting their stocks and low prices compared to conventional markets.
“I bring the stock in the morning and my endeavour is to see that my goods are disposed of as fast as possible because I cannot sit all day long or take it back,” points out a farmer, Saidulu. Prices at Rythu Bazars are fixed by the authorities based on the wholesale prices in the Bowenpally Agriculture Market.
Margin for ryots
A margin of 20 per cent is ensured for farmers while fixing the prices. All bazars are supposed to follow these prices but those in Saroornagar and Vanasthalipuram follow rates prevailing at the nearby NTR Nagar Market, where prices are relatively higher, revealed Estate officials.
Despite uniform price charts, farmers communicate with their counterparts in other places and follow the highest prices prevailing in other nearby markets. Amid all this, middlemen are having the last laugh making their way into the markets by obtaining fake certificates as farmers. They take advantage of farmers' limitations like staying back in the markets throughout the day.
Agents purchase stocks from farmers at marginal prices and later sell the same at higher prices. “Given their contacts with hotels and restaurant managements, they sell vegetables to them even the next day and make good profits”, explains an official.
There are also over 300 Self-Help Groups and as per rules, their contracts are valid only for one year and cannot be renewed, they continue to conduct their business, depriving a chance for other groups with the help of local politicians.
The Erragadda, Mehdipatnam, Kukatpally, Vanasthalipuram Rythu Bazars attract more visitors, while those at Alwal, Falaknuma and Saroornagar are a poor draw. R.K. Puram and Qutbullapur markets are avoided by customers with few farmers coming there.
“One should not be surprised if they are shut,” shrugs an official.