Himachal apple comm agents sitting over farmers’ money

News, Views

imageShimla :Many small commission agents have opened shops all over Himachal Pradesh’s apple belt in recent years but are giving sleepless nights again to farmers as the apple harvest has just begun.

Many apple farmers say marketing has become very uncertain and they have not been paid by these agents since the past one to four years.

While some farmers have filed police and legal cases against them, others are patiently waiting to be paid.Many declined to come on record by naming these defaulters fearing for their money.

In the last more than five years commission agents (artiyas) have mushroomed at Narkanda, Rohru, Theog, Kharapather, Shimla, Solan, Parwanoo among other places .

All agents hand over post dated cheques and the money is received within a few weeks. But there are those who take months and sometimes years to pay.

Most agents have the excuse of not receiving payments from wholesalers .

Scores of villages in the state’s sprawling apple belt say they have not been paid for years now.

Agents open makeshift shops in July and close by October.

Farmers say it is very hard to get in touch with them. Phones remain switched off or unanswered.

And when the next harvest starts they reappear and open shop again,assuring farmers to clear pending dues with the condition that they sell their produce to them again.

Farmers complain that government is not regulating these commission agents. Anyone one can open a shop and do business worth crores without being regulated. And no action is taken against defaulters.

Most of these make-shift shops have opened on highways such as the Hindustan Tibet road which falls in the apple belt. Farmers easily bring in their apple boxes in pick-up vehicles.

Agents sell the fruit to wholesale merchants who gather here from all over India and then ship the produce by truck to all corners of India .

For decades almost the entire Himachal apple was directly sold by farmers in Delhi’s Azadpur market from where it was distributed by wholesalers to the rest of the country.

Farmers recall being paid in time by Delhi’s commission agents .

With changing times small apple farmers who constitute 95 per cent try to sell their produce in their orchards or in nearby small markets.

But the remaining few big orchardists still ship their produce to Delhi where returns are assured .