A shirt that is available for sale in the market has a long ‘journey’- right from the production of cotton to the buyer in the supermarket. There is a chain of markets involved in this ‘journey’ with buying and selling taking place at every step.
Majority of farmers have small holdings of land. They need to do backbreaking work to get a good harvest of cotton. Picking cotton from cotton farm is a tough task. It takes many days to harvest cotton because all the cotton bolls do not burst at one go.
Cotton farming requires high levels of inputs; such as fertilisers and pesticides. Farmers often have to borrow money from the local traders for meeting these expenses.
The traders charge a high rate of interest. They also put a condition that the farmer would sell cotton only to that trader and not anywhere else. This forces a farmer to sell cotton at a price which is lower than the market rate.
Traders are powerful men in the villages. A farmer depends on such traders for money in exigencies; like illness, education, marriage, etc. Moreover, farmers also need to borrow money in order to survive during lean season.
An agricultural produce market committee (APMC) is a marketing board established by state governments of India. APMC acts run on two principles:
Under APMC Acts, a state is geographically divided and Market (Mandis) are established at different places within the states. Farmers have to sell their produce through the auction in mandi. To operate in Mandi, a trader has to get license. Wholesale, retail traders (e.g. shopping mall owner) or food processing company etc cannot buy farm output directly from farmer. They’ve to get it through the Mandi.
Erode; a city in Tamil Nadu has a bi-weekly cloth market. It is one of the largest cloth markets in the world. It boasts of a large variety of clothes. The people involved in this market either directly or indirectly are;
It is a system whereby the merchant supplies raw material and receives the finished product. The merchant books orders from his customers. He distributes work among the weavers and instructs them to make a cloth as per an order’s specification.
Therefore, the weavers depend on the merchants for raw materials and markets. This high level of dependence proves that the merchants have a lot of power.
It is a merchants’ market in the sense that it works more in the favour of the merchants. They sell the cloth to the garment factories.
The main cost of inputs is the looms. The weavers invest all their savings or borrow money at exorbitant interest rates for buying the looms. A loom costs Rs 20000/-. A weaver who has two looms has to shell out Rs 40000/-. Since the work on these looms cannot be done alone, another adult family member works with him. They work upto 12 hours a day. They earn a meagre amount of Rs 3500/- per month in spite of working so hard.
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