Commodity Stewardship Councils: Transforming the agriculture landscape in Maharashtra

Chetan Bhakkad

Maharashtra, a frontrunner in agricultural production, infrastructure development, and a proclivity for adopting global best practices, excels in production of exotic and normal fruits and vegetables. It is the largest producer of seedless grapes, pomegranates and onions, and the third-largest producer of mandarins. Additionally, the state boasts of significant production in soybeans, pulses and cotton.

Despite these accolades, the agriculture sector grapples with ongoing challenges such as non-uniform information and an unequal distribution of marketing margins among value chain participants. To address these issues effectively, institutions such as the Commodity Stewardship Council (CSC) are being planned as a pivotal initiative.

The vision of CSCs 

Under the visionary SMART Project, supported by the World Bank, the Government of Maharashtra is set to establish CSCs. These councils serve as associations that coordinate the efforts of stakeholders within specific agricultural commodity value chains. Operating as non-profit organisations under Section 8 of the Companies Act 2013, CSCs possess the unique ability to function both as private entities and non-profit organisations.

The objectives of CSCs

CSCs hold the key to sustainably integrating FPCs into the organised supply chains of processing industries and SMEs. Their mission is to create an inclusive platform that unites all stakeholders with a focus on:

  • Enhancing competitiveness
  • Developing new markets and optimising agri-value chains 
  • Crafting sustainable strategies for all participants
  • Converging stakeholders onto a common platform 
  • Charting a long-term vision and identifying critical gaps
  • Expanding market access plans and disseminating critical findings • Paving the way for entrepreneurial opportunities for all stakeholders

Grant Thornton’s role in institutionalising CSCs

The concept of CSCs is relatively new in India, and Grant Thornton Bharat LLP, acting as the technical support agency (TSA) for the project, plays a pivotal role in their institutionalisation. In collaboration with the government, GT undertook comprehensive feasibility studies for more than 58 commodities in Maharashtra, ultimately identifying ten viable commodities for the formation of stewardship councils.

Over the past two years, GT has been in constant consultation with key players across value chains, including FPOs, producer associations, processors, input suppliers and exporters, as well as state agricultural universities (SAUs), research institutes, agri-tech companies, and officials from line departments. These engagements aimed to understand the unique challenges and expectations of each stakeholder from a collaborative forum.

As a testament to its commitment, GT successfully facilitated the formation and registration of the first-ever CSC in the country, the Indo Grapes Development Council (IGDC), on 31 March 2023. The firm will continue to provide comprehensive, end-to-end support, from the inception of each CSC to post-establishment operations for the next two years. GT will formulate strategic roadmaps and business plans for each CSC, ensuring their sustainability. To streamline CSC services, GT is developing a digital portal repository.

In this era of transformative change, the advent of CSCs marks a significant leap towards a more inclusive and prosperous future for Maharashtra’s agricultural sector. Grant Thornton’s pioneering role in this endeavour underscores its commitment to facilitating sustainable, growth-oriented solutions in agriculture.

Progress so far