APMC traders seek a level playing field for removal of mandi cess fees

The traders are seeking the removal of the market cess fee so that there is no unfair competition between traders inside and outside the market yards.

More than 1,000 traders from the Agriculture Produce Market Committee (APMC), Navi Mumbai, located in Vashi, have sought a level playing field for traders and demanded waiver of the APMC cess fee, being collected for products sold at the wholesale market.

Members of the Grain, Rice & Oilseeds, Merchants’ Association (Groma), Navi Mumbai met state leader of the Opposition, Devendra Fadnavis, and sought help to discuss the issue with the state government.

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The traders are seeking the removal of the market cess fee so that there is no unfair competition between traders inside and outside the market yards. Sharadkumar Maru, president, Groma, said that because of the cess, the same product becomes expensive inside the APMC and therefore consumers would prefer to purchase commodities outside the market yards.

In the first week of June, the central government amended the Essential Commodities Act, 1955, and brought The Farming Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Ordinance, 2020. With the amendment, farmers are now allowed to trade outside the APMC without any state tax or legal binding.

Currently, the trade of essential commodities like foodgrain, oil, vegetables, onion-potato attracts 0.8 % cess at the APMC. Maru said that the decision had impacted their business, and traders were incurring huge losses. “The problem will become more severe in days to come when the market will function in full capacity after easing of the lockdown.”

“Since the APMCs are still under the state government and the recent amendment in the Essential Commodities Act is separate from the model APMC Act, the state government can make a decision in waiving off the cess,” said a trader from the grain market in APMC Vashi.

The purpose of the central government is to enable farmers to get better price of their products. However, traders claim that they need a level playing field to remain in the market. Maru said that they received a positive response from former chief minister Devendra Fadnavis and senior BJP leader Prakash Mehta. “They assured us that they will place the issue before the chief minister of state and NCP chief,” he said.

Kirti Rana, vice-president, Confederation of All India Traders, highlighted that a person who has only PAN number can buy or stock unlimited quantity of grains, oilseeds, vegetables and fruits, etc., without any upper limit and agriculture goods can be purchased from any unlicensed trader or farmer and this was unfair to the trader. He said the mandi cess was not uniform across mandis in India and if the concept of ‘One Nation One Market’ has to be adopted, multiple taxes such as GST, cess, VAT should be removed. He said traders were ready to pay for market facilities and modernisation but a level playing field should be given to traders within mandis as well.

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