Price exploitation by the traders and middle man and storage of farm produce are the two major problems majority of Indian farmers face every day in every nook and corner of the country. What is the solution?
Cold storage, APMC market or direct selling does not make any difference to the prevailing problems of farmers. Cold storage is not useful for all the farmers except those handful people having good money in their pockets. India has already got in to the culture of having APMC everywhere. It cannot be closed down because many people are employed in APMC, and many agents are working there. It is practically not possible for all farmers to get into direct selling. The question remains – What is the solution?
“Encourage the farmers to get into the food processing,” suggests Mr. Vivek Samudre, Director, Admark Ventures, Mumbai. The company helps farmers to become self-compliant to utilize their farm produce effectively and efficiently. Mr. Samudre strongly believes if farmers are taught how to make finished products they shall be able to earn better. For example a tomato farmer trained to make dried tomatoes and ketchup from his farm-produced tomatoes shall have better profits potential. “This is a seasonal business because it can be done only when the tomato selling price goes down and farmers can get into processing,“ he adds.
Wasting potential manpower is a great loss to the overall economy. So to involve farmers’ families in food processing venture is highly recommended. Mr. Samudre once again shares another food processing, successful venture of fried onions. He says, “When making biryani lots of fried onions are needed. We are operating in the area where we grow 80% of onion in India. When onion price goes down, farmers are asked to slice and deep fry onions. It is done under the close watch of farmers’ wives. Later these fried onions are sent across to the restaurants.”
When the price is less, a farmer can take up processing and also when the demand is low, feels Mr. Balasaheb Lhanu Valunj, an amla farmer from Akola, Maharashtra. He shares, “There is no value to raw amla and so I started making juice, pickles, powder, and other items using my farm-grown amla.” He is successfully making amla based value-added products and sells it at different agriculture and food exhibitions.
Food processing is also the solution to infrastructure-related issues, mainly the road connectivity to urban India. Mr. Samudre shares, “One dairy farmer was finding it very difficult to sell the milk because geographically his area was not very well connected by road to town/cities. So we helped him to buy a machine by which he could make paneer and cheese. Later he stopped selling milk in the market, and now he sells only cottage cheese in the market.” The change of turning into food processor was a fruitful decision for the dairy farmer as he earns better now.
Farmers are also encouraged to have honey bee hives in their farms. It helps in improving the crop cultivation by about 15% to 20% as bees assist in controlling pests and at the same time farmers get good quality of honey.
A few farmers who have successfully ventured into food processing are Mr. Keshavrao Kadu, a sugarcane farmer, makes sugarcane juice and snack items; Mr. Rajesh Chopade grows turmeric, he sells it in market and makes turmeric powder and pickles; Mr. Gagaram Dhindale grows rice organically that he uses for jogri processing.
These farmers feel that to get success, self-investment, updating with technology and step by step advancement in learning procedures of food processing are key factors. Mr. Valunj adds, “Everyone needs to grow first for themselves and later for others. Food processing must be worked on and implemented as per plan and then it will be successful.” He signs off saying, “In this way, surely one day agriculture will become the mainstream industry in India.”
Provides new platform for farmers to sell farm produce
“Farmers could cultivate but were not able to sell their products. They needed a lot of help to sell their farm produce. When I saw this on my visit to India to help a friend of mine, I decided to stay back and help farmers become processors and entrepreneurs,” says Mr. Vivek Samudre. He set up the company Admark Ventures in 2009 at Mumbai, Maharashtra.
The company has all its activities directed towards betterment of farmers starting from assisting them to grow crops as per the market demand, creating a direct retail market for their farm produce, encouraging and helping them to get into food processing and lastly redirecting farmers’ family members who have joined some other industry to return to their roots even if not full time, but at least on a part-time basis.
When asked as to what goals have been achieved he says, “I have been able to achieve certain things but a few could not happen because of certain rules and regulations by the government or some local bodies having some rights that they don’t want to give to somebody else.” He concludes, “A few solutions from the company would have taken less time and benefitted farmers more but could not be attained because of a few power-centric people.”
Mr. Samudre plays an important role in bridging the gap between end-users and producers of agriculture related products. He says, “I have become friendly with the farmers and I have started understanding their problems. Even I am a consumer so I know the problems of a consumer.” He and his team at the company have a network of farmers who sell their farm produce and set of buyers who purchase these products.
The farmers’ response towards food processing is very encouraging. “When we say food processing, the word itself seems to be very heavy but actually if you see whether it is any kind of chips or other food items produced by multinational, it all started from somebody’s house and later it has become a commercial product,” says Mr. Samudre and adds, “Today farmers who have done their own R & D, have started making idly out of Jowar, chakli from ragi and like these a lot of other products. It is amazing as how they could do it.” It is important to understand that the farmers are intelligent and they also use their skills to do new items from their farm produce.
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