As many as 1,600 wholesale fruit and vegetable mandis have started functioning smoothly and 300 more will operate from Friday after the central government on Thursday stepped in to normalise the supply during the lockdown.

The Union agriculture ministry is in constant touch with state governments in charge of agriculture marketing and APMC (Agriculture Produce Marketing Committee) or wholesale mandi boards to take proactive measures to ensure supply of essential vegetables and fruits is not hit during the lockdown period.

“There were initial resistance but we have persuaded state governments and APMC board to keep mandis open. As a result, 1,600 fruits and vegetable mandis have started functioning smoothly today (Thursday) and 300 more will open tomorrow (Friday),” a senior agriculture ministry official told PTI.

There are about 6,900 wholesale mandis, including grains, vegetables and fruits ones, across the country. The grain mandis get activated during the time of harvest. Right now, the focus is on vegetable and fruit mandis, the official said.

To normalise supply in major cities, the Centre has asked Mother Dairy’s Safal vegetable outlets in Delhi, Sufal Bangla retail outlets in Kolkata, Hopcoms retail outlets in Bengaluru and similar outlets in Chennai and Mumbai to monitor movement of supplies and coordinate with local administration.

On the inter-state movement of vegetables, the official said traders are “facing problems on the ground as the police is enforcing strictly the lockdown rules”.

However, mandis have been asked to set up a control room to intervene and coordinate with local police and district collector as well as transport association to resolve the matter, the official added.

On safety and preventive measures, the official said awareness is being created about Covid-19 through loudspeaker and even posters have been put out in mandis.

Besides, mandis have put in place a system to maintain social distancing and encouraging traders to wear face masks and hand sanitisers regularly to combat coronavirus. Even mandi premise is being disinfected regularly, the official added.

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