Please tell us about your farm near Tirunelveli. What are you currently cultivating there?
I am currently 73 years old. I retired as a Managing Director of Kothari Sugars and Chemicals Ltd. Post retirement, I got involved in agriculture. I hail from an agricultural family. My father and grandfather etc. have been in the agricultural field. While I worked in sugar industry, I had access to real agricultural practices and experiences.
I purchased this land in Tirunelveli about 11 years back. From day one when we started reforming the land, I was subsequently planning the crops that I wanted to cultivate. We have concentrated more on horticulture crops. Our major crops are goose berry, mango, and lemon. In addition to these, I also have papaya, chiku, guava. A portion of the farm is allotted for vertical garden. We are equally giving importance to herbal and medicinal plants like Moringa oleifera, curry leaves, mint, basil etc. Apart from this, we planted huge number of trees.
We have a 200 acre farm. We have, so far, planted about 65000 trees of varied species, which will provide a good green coverage. The bio waste from these trees is the basic raw material for our bio dynamic compost.
From the beginning, we have been seeking information on how to sustain in organic agriculture. We realised that sustaining organic agriculture is difficult without cows. So, we have set up a small dairy unit in the farm with about 65 Indian cows. We get the required raw material such as milk, curd, ghee, cows’ urine and cow dung for the preparation of various organic manures and pesticides. We use these pesticides for our farm and sell them too. This integrated dairy farm has resulted in reduction of our input cost and increased our productivity by 50%.
My brother, Mr. Chandrasekaran and I are involved in the development of this farm. We have jointly promoted a company called Jaycee Organic LLP, a Limited Liability Partnership firm. When we started receiving yield, we thought we can easily market it, but we ran into a lot of challenges. So we opted for a value addition route. We acquired polarizing machine for processing the curry leaf and medicinal crops. We also erected mills for processing cold press oils. Processing of fruits and vegetables are in the pipeline and I am very happy to say that the Minister of Food Processing Industry has recognized our farm and our company for approved processing practices. They have approved our project for extending international support.
We have about 55-60 people working on our farm. We have given importance to women empowerment – 65% of our employees are women. We have inputs manufacturing like bio, organic and bio dynamic. About 11 microbiologist girls are working on that. Our aim is to expand it by helping marginal and small farmers and add them as our partners.
Where are you based? Are you from Tirunelveli?
My residence is in Chennai. But I stay at the farm for 4 days every week. I travel from Chennai to Tirunelveli every week.
Which part of Tamil Nadu are you originally part of?
We are from the Vellore District.
In terms of water supply for your land, is your farm supported by bore wells?
Yes, we depend mainly on the underground water. We have 6 open wells and 25 bore wells. They are all interconnected. Any well water can be diverted to any other well or bore well.
With all the global warming issues nowadays, we have an elaborate rainwater harvesting system. We have canals for water collection and 6 percolation ponds as well. We had invested
Rs. 95,00,000/- ensure good water management system. This helps us to irrigate the complete farm comfortably.
We store rain water and our system will hold around 2 crore litres of water. This not just helps my farm but it is a boon to nearby farmers as well. We conserve the water.
Are you also into some kind of contract farming with the nearby farmers, over and above what you produce on your land?
Not exactly. Now, we have taken another 450 acres of land on lease apart from our land. We have a plan to engage into contract farming. We want to help them. We can provide all kinds of support – technical, input support, managerial, etc., and we will buy their produce at a minimum of 50% more than what they will get in the market.
Not just that, I have the organic certification for all my 200 acres and subsequently I got another important certificate called the DEMETER certification. It is internationally recognized and DEMETER certified products will fetch at least 50% more prices in the international market than other products. We are also certified by LACON, a German subsidiary certifying company in India and we have also obtained the HALAL certificate.
Very recently, I was at an agro product and organic food exhibition in Germany. Our products were very well received there. As a result, we landed an excellent order as well.
Please tell us about the marketing aspect around this. What about the export market? Where do you sell this?
Excellent question. It is easy or comparatively easy to produce crops, but marketing is an entirely different aspect which can be handled only by a few. To market a product, one needs to know the market very well, and to keep the quality and certification is a herculean task.
My product is now exported to Germany and some countries like Dubai, Malaysia, Singapore and recently I have got sanction to export to UK and USA. Their main requirement is the Moringa oleifera products. They are interested in coconut and coconut products as well.
Very recently I have entered into an MOU also after returning from Germany.
Moringa oleifera and all are grown by other farmers as well and they too are exporting it. So, in the long term, what stands out unique in your product?
That is a good question. As far as Moringa oleifera is concerned, it cannot be grown everywhere in the world. It can only be grown in the tropical and sub-tropical areas. The international market for Moringa oleifera is 6-7 billion dollars and the market is still on the rise. It is not easy to grow and market the Moringa oleifera. It has to be produced to the standards required by the importer.
Every country has got their own specification. I am aware that in India a lot of people are producing and trying to export the Moringa oleifera. I also know that many have failed and many products have been returned. This is because it wouldn’t match the clients’ requirements.
There are herbal products produced in India under agro climatic conditions. It cannot be grown everywhere. For example, the herbal products and medicinal plants which can be grown in the Southern part of India cannot be grown in the North because of the prevailing agro climatic conditions. We have to work out and identify which are all the products that bear unique requirement and unique specifications. For example, Moringa oleifera is not a new crop, it was known a long time ago, but people did not give it a lot of attention. Now they have started realising its importance. In Germany they look at this product for 2 aspects:
1. Moring Oleifera is considered to be a food substitute and also as a raw material for medicines.
2. Most of the areas in Germany that I have visited give more importance for homeopathic medicines.
They are offering high prices as well, provided we back their requirement. So, our quality should be of very high standards. As I mentioned earlier, a farmer cannot win, unless the produce that he gets is processed in the form of a value addition, failing which he tends to get exploited in the market.
They can form groups like FPOs, and the Minister of Food Processing Industry is extremely supportive of farmers. People should utilize government schemes. The SAMRATHA scheme is an excellent scheme.
Why do you speak highly of that scheme?
It is a very easy process and once it is appraised, they give 35% of the total project cost. 35% is not a small amount.
For example, our project is 8.96 crores and we have been approved for 3.13 crores. So, there are interesting schemes and the people should approach and move forward. It can be through NABARD or National Horticulture Board, etc.
Is doing things on a large scale the only way one can survive in the export market? Do you think marginal farmers have a chance?
One thing is that the educated sector, the youngsters are all well aware how to enter into the agricultural sector. The future is going to be that of the agro business, and I am happy to mention that the employers and the entrepreneurs are the only people who have the money.
They have the exposure too through their line of business or through the social media. They give out a lot of information. Since I move towards villages and I meet a lot of villagers, they are all aware about a lot of things. They are reading and they are determined. The central and state governments are moving towards the villages.
For example, I have been appointed by the government of Tamil Nadu as a resource person for teaching organic and training farmers for organic agriculture. People are being made aware. Gradually we are coming on track.
My suggestion to media people like you is: recently, for example, The Better India covered very vastly and published about my farm. I got around 200-300 calls and mails. I am happy to respond to those people who sought information. I do not have any regular training classes. There are people who do regular trainings and conducting workshops etc. For example, there is an association called Biodynamic Associations of India headquartered in Bangalore.
I am a board member of that association. They regularly conduct classes at 3-4 places in India and they are giving information about dates and venue. I have myself attended workshops in Gujarat. They are conducting classes in Kodaikanal in Tamil Nadu. Now, workshop is going on near Channapatna.
Who attends these workshops?
Farmers and people who want to enter into the agricultural sector. People are attending and taking back what they have learned to implement on their fields.
I have stayed there on the campus for around 15 days and learned many things from them not just about organic agriculture but also about a technology called bio-dynamic agriculture. It is called the holistic way of doing agriculture based on the movements of the planets and constellations. This is tied up, to a certain degree, to astronomy.
They are teaching many things which are helpful for quality and quantity production in the organic route.
So, in your opinion a lot is changing now and new people are coming with new things.
Gradually, contract farming is coming up – large farming – 50-100/200/300 acres because fragmented land cultivation of 2-3 acres is no more viable.
True. It isn’t viable for the family as well.
They are finding it very difficult. So they have to amalgamate and group to minimum of 50-100 or 200 acres. Many farmers can club up and do their farming. Of course, at that point they will need some government support to carry it forward.
Now, government of India is supporting FPOs in a very big way.
Yes, of course.
For every farmer who is investing an amount of Rs. 1000/-, the government of India is spending another 100/-. So, he becomes a share holder in the company and will cultivate, produce and supply to the company. He will get min 50% more than what he will get from the open market. At the end of the year company earned profits are shared among the farmer members.
It is very interesting that we are glad to be in India and attached to agriculture. The main thing is that we need to cater for good soil, good water, good sunlight and favourable climatic conditions. This is very essential.
My sincere advice for doing agriculture or any business is that interest needs to be there. A person who has the interest for agriculture alone can do it. Otherwise it is a bad choice. When there is interest, there is involvement, and involvement is highly required for anything to flourish.
Another important thing is the investment. There should be a strong investment source, self or government, institution like banks etc. With this combination, anybody who enters this space will definitely do well. I assure them, from practice, that organic agriculture is highly sustainable and profitable, provided we do it systematically.
Thank you so much, Mr. Jayachandran. You have an ocean of experience and knowledge.
Thank you for your time and enthusiasm to spread knowledge. God has created us not just to produce and eat for ourselves, but to produce for others as well.
Whatever we produce, of course, should be free from chemicals because we should be producing to nurture life not harm it.
Mr. K. Jayachandran,
Jaycee Organics LLP
Reg. Office: New No: 11/ Old No:2, New Giri Road, T Nagar, Chennai- 600017. Tamil Nadu, INDIA.
Farm & Factory : 12/46, Kollangulam Road, Udaiyampuli Village, Alangulam Taluk, Tirunelveli Dist, Tamilnadu 627602 INDIA
Mob : +91 96772 20020 / 9841096367
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