In India, agriculture has remained the major source of livelihood for ages. The sector shares 18.8 percent of GVA of the total economy (Economic Survey, 2021-22)
and has witnessed buoyant growth in production and productivity, albeit farmers still resort to distress sale due to poor marketing facilities. Agriculture markets in India have been subjected to various reforms and it is requisite to provide the farming community with market accessibility, transparency and provision of remunerative prices (Manjula, 2021)
. Before independence, the major concern of the government policies was to check the prices of food for the consumers and agro-raw materials for the industries. However, soon after independence, state governments started enacting Agricultural Produce Marketing Committee (APMC) to protect illiterate farmers from exploitation by traders and commission agents. Although the APMCs has cleansed several malpractices and imperfections in agricultural markets, it has checked the development of a competitive marketing system and provided no help to farmers in direct marketing, retailing, supply and adoption of innovative marketing system. Apart from APMC, the Essential Commodities Act, 1955 and the profusion of Control Orders publicized under this act by the center and states prevented the development of a free and competitive marketing system in the country. As a result, the pace of reforms continued to be slow and vacillating and the share of agriculture in the national GDP dwindled over time (Ministry of Agriculture and Framer’s Welfare, 2017)
Then in the 1990s, agriculture reforms witnessed a divergent paths, but more focused consideration was visible only in the first decade of the century. Observing the inefficiency caused by licensing/registration, market controls and other interference introduced by APMC Act, it was strongly felt that an alternative marketing system needs to be introduced. Further, greater participation of the private sector should be encouraged to make investments required for the development of marketing infrastructure and other supporting services (Baskar and Shalendra, 2022)
. Accordingly, the then Department of Agriculture and Cooperation, Government of India, formulated a model law on agricultural marketing in consultation with the states and came up with the draft model legislation titled the State Agricultural Produce Marketing (Development and Regulation) Act, 2003. However, implementation of the model APMC Act was either patchy or uneven across the states (Reddy, 2018)
. Originally, the APMC act was intended to protect farmer’s interests but over the years, the act turned out to be inoperative as the lack of supportive institutional mechanisms and infrastructural facilities left farmers dependent on middlemen which sometimes turned exploitative (Aggarwal, Jain and Narayanan, 2016)
Under APMC, the surplus from an area was moving through a network of intermediaries, multiple market areas and institutional agencies. There was no national-level regulation and the existing regulations were not providing a barrier-free markets in the country (NABARD, 2018)
. Therefore, there was a need to develop a national-level single market for agricultural commodities by removing all the existing barriers to licensing, movement and storage. Subsequently, the integration of agriculture markets across the country through e-platform was seen as an important measure to overcome the challenges created by the present marketing system and it became the need of the hour to unify markets both at the state and national levels to provide better price to farmers, improve supply chain, reduce wastages and create a unified national market (Yadav and Sharma, 2017)
. Therefore, with a concept to unify all nationwide agricultural markets and endeavors of integration of Agricultural Produce Marketing Committees by creating a central online platform for agricultural commodities, the government of India, approved a central sector scheme National Agriculture Market (NAM) in 2016. The e-NAM envisaged as a pan-India electronic trading platform providing a single window service for all APMC related information and services. While material flow i.e.
agriculture produces continues to happen through mandis, an online market reduces transaction costs and information asymmetry (Kumar et al., 2016).
The e-NAM was intended to be a market-based mechanism for efficient price discovery by the farmers, but it turned out to be less effective than desired (Ghosh, 2021)
. Further, there is a requirement for a wide correlation between producer, market channels, retailer and consumer. As a result, the government attempted some reforms by persuading states to undertake interventions such as e-trading through the adoption of the model Agricultural Produce and Livestock Marketing (APLM) Act, 2017 advocated electronic markets (e-markets) through the abolition of the concept of notified area, so that anyone from anywhere can trade in a local market through participation in electronic auction platforms (Kumar and Pant, 2020)
. Also, the number of markets for e-NAM was scaled up to cover more markets and farmers, which were allowed to sell and transport directly from registered warehouses and Farmer Produce Organisations. With all these efforts, the government is earnestly pursuing with states to amend their marketing laws to engender a suitable legal framework and policy atmosphere to usher in marketing efficiency. The number of APMC mandis recorded under e-NAM as on 30th Sep 2022 are 1260 from 22 states and 3 UTs (Fig 1).
Jute in West Bengal
Fig 1: Number of e-NAM mandis in the country. Source: (https://enam.gov.in/web/).
West Bengal is the undisputed king of jute in India with a share of nearly 80 per cent in the area and 83 per cent in production followed by Assam and Bihar. Traditionally jute was used to make hessian cloths and sacks, but now jute has been diversified to make various products like all kinds of bags from necessary to luxury, sacks, carry bags, door-mats, carpets, file- covers, sofa backs and covers, decorates, shoes and sandals, curtails, etc
. (Das and Chanu, 2016)
At the farmers’ level, jute marketing is concerned with the domestic market. Basically, jute marketing is done as raw jute marketing at the farmers’ level. It is raw in the sense that farmers sell jute fiber as a raw material without making any change in its physical appearance and grading. As an agricultural product jute is not perishable, it can be stored for a long time. But since farmers need money, jute is disposed of immediately after the fiber is ready to sell at the farmers’ level. The final consumers of jute are jute mills.
Keeping in mind the versatile character and importance of jute, the present study is an attempt to analyse the level of awareness among jute growers about e-marketing.