Rythu Bazaars, one of the few government initiatives that received overwhelming response, is fast losing patronage these days with genuine farmers said to be inclined to sell their products locally rather than coming to the market.

But consumers continue to throng the Rythu Bazaar complexes, the government-run integrated centres selling farmers’ produce directly to consumers, eliminating middlemen.

The development assumes significance in the light of the government’s decision to allow foreign direct investment in multi-brand retail as experts see Rythu Bazaar in Andhra Pradesh and similar initiatives in other States as a major factor that could help protect the interests of farmers.

Rythu Bazaars in A.P., an initiative of former Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu in 1999, figured in papers presented at a workshop on FDI in multi-brand retail and its implications on farmers and other sections engaged in traditional retail businesses. An Associate Professor at the Institute of Public Enterprises, Anji Raju, made important observation in his paper ‘Organised retail for the benefit of farmers: Some observations in the Indian context’.

According to Prof. Raju, Rythu Bazaars were important constituents addressing marketing infrastructure needs for farmers in that they would help eliminate middlemen and thus give reasonable returns for farmers. As for consumers, they will get produce, farm fresh, for prices much lower than the market rates.

There are 107 bazaars including nine in the twin cities and most of them are operated from the premises developed by the government. The experiment helped reduce prices in other vegetable markets as well, as vendors used to charge exorbitantly in the past. Farmers could also secure benefits on other counts like absence of payment of commission to agents and market charges as the bazaars were run by the Revenue Department with the assistance from the government. The situation, however, had changed since the past couple of years as the number of farmers coming to the bazaars had dwindled causing concern among the officials concerned.

More than the volumes, the initiative helped continue the focus on small farmers and these sections, mostly those selling leafy vegetables still continue their dependence on the Rythu Bazaars. “There is, however, a dip in number of genuine farmers selling potato, onions and other commodities coming from outside the State,” said Director of Marketing Mohd. Israr Ahmed, who is also in-charge CEO, Rythu Bazar.

Setting up of malls like Reliance Fresh by multinationals had its impact on the functioning of Rythu Bazaars as consumers preferred the former in spite of affordability factor involved. “Since farmers are not coming, we are encouraging DWCRA and other groups to sell their products in these markets,” he added.