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LAHORE: Admitting that the role of arhti (middleman) in the marketing system is inevitable, agriculture authorities say they plan to rationalise it in accordance with the service it is providing.

“The role of middleman in the marketing system can never be eliminated. However, the margin he is fetching must be rationalised in accordance with service/ value addition he is providing. We’re transforming fruit and grain markets into model ones in which strict auction monitoring system will curtail the undue profiteering by the middleman,” says Punjab Agriculture Marketing Director Liaqat Ali.

The daily retail rates will be based on these transparent and closely monitored auctions. The prices will be realistic and cheaper with only due share for middleman,” he said when asked about eliminating arhtis’ role to check artificial price-hike in fruit, vegetables and grains.

The model market’s plan has been approved by Special Secretary Ehsan Bhutta and 25 markets will be transformed within a month. These are fruit & vegetable markets of Hafizabad, Gujranwala, Burewala, Kehror Pakka, Dina, Talagang, Deepalpur, Pakpattan, Bhakkar, Samundri, Faisalabad, Chiniot, Kaacha (Lahore), Sheikhupura, Nankana Sahib, Multan, Bahawalpur, RY Khan, Muzaffargarh, Rajanpur, DG Khan, and grain markets of Khanewal, Chichawatni, Sargodha, and Piplan.

For ensuring transparency in the market transactions, Mr Ali said all the produce would be sold through open auction which would be recorded with farmers having access to the data so that they could safeguard their interest.

The official said schedule of market fees, commission and daily rates would be displayed at prominent places in model markets as a further check on overcharging by the middlemen.

Replying to a query, the official said the farmers are allowed to market their produce to consumers as there are ‘corners’ in the markets to facilitate those interested in selling their produce directly to consumers. He said the model markets would have anti-dengue, fruit-fly management measures and maximum tree plantation, and free from encroachments.

Answering a question about political administrators of markets, he claimed that no political administrator was working in the market committees which are governed by the Punjab Agriculture Produce Markets Ordinance 1978.

Mr Ali said a farmer advisory service was in operation through which more than one million farmers get through SMS daily prices of 10 commodities in their respective district market.

In addition to this an android application has also been launched from where past prices of different markets can be accessed and farmers can decide which market he should sell his produce keeping in view the differential in prices and expected costs.

Published in Dawn, September 11th, 2018