It's a major reform aimed to ensure farmers get remunerative prices for their produce and take them closer to consumers. And it's just got a huge boost from a clutch of non-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) ruled states.
A fortnight ago, the state assembly in Congress-ruled Punjab amended its Agriculture Produce Marketing Committee (APMC) Act to adopt the reforms suggested by the Centre while Kerala has also expressed its willingness to be a part of e-NAM, an electronic portal to create a unified national market for agricultural commodities.
At least 15 states have decided to join the e-NAM. The model law recommends a single point levy of transaction fee.
West Bengal and Tamil Nadu have also agreed to make necessary changes to go on the reform voyage.
States like Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra, where the BJP is in power, have already started taking steps to liberalise agriculture markets on the lines of the Centre's model law -- the Agricultural Produce and Livestock Marketing (APLMC) Act, 2017.
The agricultural reforms are aimed at bringing transparency, effectiveness and competition in the agricultural trade sector to double farmers' income.
In the existing system, farmers can sell their produce at regulated APMC markets, with each located in an average 462 sq km. And they are subjected to different kinds of fees. The new reforms can break the traders' nexus and enhance farmers' access to buyers.
Alka Bhargava, Joint Secretary (Marketing) in the Agriculture Ministry, said Karnataka has decided to connect its markets with the central grid under the e-NAM and West Bengal has made two of three required changes so far.
"Punjab is the first state government to adopt the new law. It has passed a bill in the assembly recently. Also, Kerala has sent us a proposal to participate in e-NAM," Bhargava told IANS.
Satish Chandra, Additional Chief Secretary of Punjab's Agriculture Department, said that the state amended its APMC Act on June 23 to adopt all reforms proposed in the Centre's model act.
"We have borrowed and incorporated all aspects of the model law. We will have private market yards, special market yards, direct market and e-NAM, which will help us in price stabilisation," Chandra told IANS.
Kerala looks to get a national market for its commodities such as spices, bananas, pineapples and special varieties of rice through e-NAM, said Teeka Ram Meena, Principal Secretary of Kerala's Agriculture Department.
"We have conveyed to the central government that our six markets would be a part of the e-NAM. We are going to send a detailed proposal soon," Meena told IANS, adding the state was planning to formulate a mechanism to start private and direct marketing in lieu of the APMC Act in the state.
Maharashtra is planning to bring an amendment to adopt the model law in the upcoming monsoon session of the assembly.
"The bill is with the Law Department and we are planning to take it up in the monsoon session. However, we have already started taking steps to set up private and direct markets," Maharashtra Agriculture Minister Pandurang Fundkar told IANS.
Maharashtra has issued 43 licences for private marketing and licences for direct marketing have been issued to 566 companies, including Saguna, ITC.
However, the JD-U-led Bihar government is not ready to adopt the new model act, apparently for political reasons.
The Bihar government has said its marketing system was more liberal than the one the Centre has come up with.
"The Centre has suggested one per cent fee, but there is no fee in Bihar. Our farmers can set up markets wherever they want and we are providing adequate facilities. Our system is more liberal. Our Chief Minister has already told the Centre that we are not interested in its new act," said a senior agriculture official from Bihar, who requested anonymity.