In the past the pattern of trade was mainly based on the partly self-sufficient economy existing then. The wants of the people were in consonance with the availability of various goods produced locally. With the passage of time and changes in the concept of standard of living came the diversification in demand for consumer goods. This diversification coupled with improvement in transport facilities led to the increase in demand for varied articles which in turn led to increase in their trade. As such, cloth, salt, spices, cutlery, building materials and a few food articles were imported. The volume and value of import and export trade were much smaller than at present.

During the last about three decades the volume of trade in respect of all commodities has increased to a considerable extent. This is more true in the case of wholesale transactions and exports. The most important land-mark in the history of trade is the regulation of agricultural marketing under the Bombay Cotton Markets Act, 1927, and the Bombay Agricultural Produce Markets Act, 1939. These Acts regulated the methods and modus operandi of trade and vested the market committees with supervisory and regulatory functions consistent with the proper implementation of the Acts. The Acts also regularised the market and commission charges and thus removed the malpractices and exploitation of the farmers. This has resulted in fair market practices and created an organisational set-up to ensure compliance with a proper code of marketing. Subsequent legislation in this regard is the Maharashtra Agricultural Produce Marketing (Regulation) Act of 1963 which has been implemented in the district since 1967. Under the Act the primary trade transactions at all principal markets in the district have been brought under the jurisdiction of the new Act. The transactions of sale and purchase of agricultural produce in these markets are held under the supervision of the market committees. This has encouraged the farmers to sell their produce through the market committees. This, coupled with the emergence of the co-operative marketing sector, is playing a prominent role in boosting up the trade at the regulated markets. These factors have enabled the agriculturists in getting better prices for their agricultural produce.

Historical background of trade: Ahmadnagar district has a long tradition of trade since long. The district had trade-links with distant commercial centres in India. The old Ahmadnagar District Gazetteer published in 1884 gives vivid description of the condition of trade then prevailing which is reproduced below: -

" The earliest details of Ahmadnagar trade belong to the third century after Christ (247), when, according to the Greek author of the Periplus of the Erythraen sea, a great traffic passed between Broach in Central Gujarat and Paithan on the east border of the present Ahmadnagar district and through Paithan ten days (about 200 miles) east to Tagar, a still greater centre of trade, whose site is unknown. The chief imports from Broach to Paithan and Tagar were wine, brass, copper, tin, lead, coral, chrysolite, cloth, storax, white glass, gold and silver coins, and perfumes. The exports were from Paithan, a great quantity of onyx stones, and from Tagar ordinary cottons in abundance, many muslins, mallow-coloured cotton, and other articles of local production. [McCrindle's Periplus, 125,126. The gold and silver coins were imported not from a want of the precious metals, but rather as works of art or charms. The writer states that they yielded a profit when exchanged for the local money. Ditto, 123.]

1858-1878 : " When the two lines of the Peninsula railways were made (1858-1878), one skirting the north-east and the other the southeast of the district, most of the through traffic left the district and most of the long-distance carting business ceased. On the other hand the district gained by the cheapening of imports and the increased value of some of its field-produce. The railway stations used for the traffic of the district were Dhond, Diksal and Jeur on the southeastern and Lasalgaon and Devlali on the north-eastern lines. From Lasalgaon wheat went in large quantities from the north of the district. A large traffic also passed to and from the Nizam's territory east to Aurangabad and along the Poona-Nasik high road. At the time of the American War (1862-1865) the cotton cart traffic and the Vanjari pack-bullock traffic in salt were still of considerable importance. Field-produce from the south was still carried to Poona and even as far as Bombay by bullock-cart. The railway was little used, as besides the high rates of carriages, the dealers were put to much inconvenience.

1878-1884: Since the opening of the Dhond-Manmad railway in 1878, except in the south of the district, almost the whole trade passed by rail. Since the opening of the Dhond-Manmad railway the towns of Shrigonda and Parner in the south and of Belapur, Kolhar and Rahata in the north have increased in importance.

Trade Agencies: At present the agencies for spreading imports and gathering exports are trade centres, weekly or half-weekly markets, fairs and village shop-keepers. Besides Ahmadnagar, the trade centres in the Nagar sub-division are Bhingar, Chinchondi, Shirali, Jeur and Valki. The chief traders at Ahmadnagar are Marwar and Gujarat Vanis, Bhatias and Bohoras. They generally act as the agents or adtyas of cotton and grain-growing land-holders. Daily and weekly markets are the chief agencies for gathering exports and spreading imports. The agents receive articles sent to them for sale in the markets. On receipt of the goods they advance money to the producers to sixty or eighty per cent of their value and with the consent of the owners sell them when prices are favourable. The agents are generally paid two or three per cent on the prices received and also charge interest on the money advanced generally at one-half per cent a month.

The leading traders of the chief trade centres deal directly with Ahmadnagar, Poona, Bombay, Pen and Panvel in Thana, and the Nizam's territory, exporting jvari, wheat, gram, chillis, oil-seeds, cotton, cloth, grass, and yarn, and importing groceries, cloth, field-tools, Chinaware, European and Bombay cloth and yarn and salt." [Gazetteer of Bombay Presidency, Ahmadnagar District, 1884, pp. 335-40.]

The above description shows that the entire merchandise was carried on bullock-carts and camels by the Lamans. The trade was hampered because of the lack of convenient road and transport facilities.

But this state of affairs underwent gradual change with the passage of time. The process of change gathered momentum during the last about three decades. The pattern and organisation of trade which mainly depends upon the general economic conditions, agrarian structure, industrial progress, facilities of transport and communications and the institutional frame-work witnessed many changes. The two World Wars and the Great Depression of 1930 had a very great impact upon the international as well as domestic markets. The new centres of trade emerged with the necessities of time. The following paragraphs will reveal the salient changes in the structural aspects of trade in the district:-