Karnataka: APMC traders’ strike against food-grain GST cripples market

The strike took a toll on the food grain market at the APMC Yard in Yeswanthpur and a sub-yard in the KR Market area.

BySaurav Kumar

Published Jul 16, 2022 | 5:41 PMUpdatedJul 27, 2022 | 11:19 AM

Yeshwanthpur APMC Yard

A strike called by traders from Karnataka’s Agricultural Produce Marketing Committee (APMC) on Friday, 15 July, crippled the food grain market at the APMC Yard in Yeswanthpur and a sub-yard in the KR Market area.

The traders called the one-day strike against the Union government’s decision to impose 5-percent GST on packaged, labelled, food products, including essential food items.

Spanning 85 acres, the affected Yeshwanthpur APMC yard is one of the largest marketplaces for farmers and buyers in the country with an estimated 2,000 shops.

Meanwhile, the APMC sub-yard at New Tharagupet in the KR Market area had all food-grain shops closed for a day. An estimated 800 shops were on strike against the GST imposition.

Ramesh Chandra Lahoti, vice-president of the Federation of the Karnataka Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FKCCI) and a food-grain merchant, told South First, “We are under an all-time-high inflation, and the economy is recovering from the onslaught of the pandemic. Amid these conditions, the government imposing a 5-percent GST on food grains is a damaging move.”

Lahoti added, “The GST-led price rise will burden consumers and small businessmen.”

Another Yeshwanthpur-based food grain trader, Ravi Kumar, told South First, “The GST will wipe out small traders. Small traders selling rice, pulses, and flour will leave the business if they do not save on each transaction, and this subsequently will hamper our business as a whole.”

TN Prakash Kammardi, a former chairperson of the Karnataka Agricultural Price Commission, considered the strike confusing.

He told South First, “The GST on food grains will hurt consumers. But the intricacies of its impact on APMC traders should be observed carefully.”

Expected price rise

The GST on food grains is expected to trigger a rise in the prices of food overall.

Rice prices would increase by ₹2.50-4 per kilogram, wheat by ₹1.50, pulses by ₹5-6, and flour by ₹3-4.

Lahoti told South First, “The approximate loss incurred by the traders after one day’s strike was ₹50 crore. If the government does not retract the GST, we will hold an indefinite strike.”

Impact on workers

As the APMC yards were deserted on the day of the strike, a few workers were found sitting at a corner of one street in the Yeshwanthpur yard.

Dasna Murthy, a 52-year-old daily wage labourer at the APMC Yeshwanthpur yard, loads and unloads sacks of food grains for a trader. He and his coworkers felt the heat of the strike.

Murthy (middle) claimed a loss of ₹500 due to the strike. (Saurav Kumar/South First)

Murthy told South First, “Traders have called off work at the mandi for one full day, and the reason they cited was the GST. It has left us without an earning for one full day.”

Murthy claimed a loss of ₹500 on this day without work.

Likewise, lorry driver S Narsimhan told South First, “The traders’ strike against the GST resulted in a loss of ₹2,000 in a day.”

Narsimhan transports food grains from merchants’ shops to retailers and medium-scale shops in Bengaluru city.

He equated the strike-induced loss with demonetisation and the Covid-19 pandemic.