Shimla, February 28
The Horticulture Produce Marketing and Processing Corporation (HPMC) sells them fertilizers, spray oils and farm equipment above market prices, apple growers say.
HPMC sells these items to farmers in lieu of payments due to them for the apple purchased under the Market Intervention Program (MIS). “As HPMC makes late payments and offers these items instead of dues, the least it can do is set a price below the market,” says Harish Chauhan, an apple farmer from Rohru. “HPMC buys these products in bulk, so they can negotiate a discount on them and pass the profits on to the farmers instead of overtaxing them,” says an arborist in Kotkhai.
The HPMC, however, cites its own reasons for pricing these items “slightly higher than market rates.” An HPMC official says the company charges up to 10% markup on any item it sells to farmers. “HPMC has limited sources of income. We need to generate revenue to stay afloat. In addition, this margin includes handling costs such as transport, loading, unloading,” he adds.
The official says the company is aggregating companies by issuing tenders instead of going for the L1 bidder to give farmers more choice. “We have several companies supplying a particular item. This gives farmers the choice to buy the product from the company of their choice. Thus, we offer our consumers both variety and quality at their doorstep,” he adds.
He says the HPMC does not always price these items higher than market prices. “Until December 31 of last year, we were selling calcium nitrate at a lower price than market dealers. Now we are selling the fresh stock we have obtained for Rs 1,450 and offering it to farmers for Rs 1,595 which includes a 10% margin,” he adds. “The dealers in the market sell calcium nitrate for around Rs 1,350 to Rs 1,400. They are able to sell it at a lower price because they have old stocks. As a company with limited means, we cannot neither procure huge stocks nor hoard them,” he says.
Arborists, however, are not convinced by this argument. “Why should a government agency sell us anything instead of the payments owed to us?” Pay farmers in full and on time, then let them decide if they want to buy items from HPMC and Himfed or from the open market,” Chauhan says. “Why force farmers to buy more expensive items by delaying their payments,” he adds.
Cannot hoard material
The dealers in the market sell calcium nitrate for around Rs1,350 to Rs1,400, while we supply it for Rs1,595. They are able to sell it at a lower price because they have old inventory. As a company with limited means, we can neither procure huge stocks nor hoard them. — An HPMC manager