Value addition is imperative for alternative market!
This is a series of deliberations about the politics behind popular market and the opportunities for successful organic agriculture markets as well as alternative markets …
For the past few weeks, I have been getting mobile calls, mostly from the readers of ‘Pasumai Vikatan’. The important question they raise is, “Whether Restore or OFM could procure the organic agriculture products grown by us?”
I urge them to think how it is possible for these small stores to procure the products from all those farmers. The primary reason for me to write about it here is that these types of stores can be created by themselves. With some effort, it is possible for them to create it. By those efforts the market should be turned towards people and democratize it. We are ready to guide those who have interest and commitment to do it.
Organic farmers should sell their agriculture products at the beginning to their family members, relatives and friends. Then it should be sold to local shops and shops of nearby cities. Thus it should be expanded gradually. Only at the final stage the products should come towards bigger cities like Chennai. It is not practically possible to follow this. But, one should know that it is important to bring down ‘food mileage’ while dealing with organic agriculture products. It’s essential that the market for organic products should be closer to the place where they are produced.
Attention should also be on technologies related to processing and value addition of the products, not simply stopping at the stage of production. Then only it is possible to control the market. It will be surely successful if the farmers of same mind come together and operate with integration. The best example for it is the story of ‘Sittlingi Organic Farmers Association’ that we have already read about. Having witnessed the success of Sittlingi farmers, Barefoot Academy of Governance was established two years ago, in Vepur Panchayat, Perambalur district. There was an article about this association in Pasumai Vikatan.
The Association could integrate organic farmers and increase the production of minor millets. But at the beginning it was not able to focus on processing and value addition of the products. Therefore they sold the products directly as grains. With much effort they were able to sell their products with Rs 10 more than the market price for minor millets. But, they could have gained additional price had they made value addition to their products. Currently, its organizers have been taking effort towards value addition.
It is not only the farmers who should come together and create organic agriculture markets. Other groups like women self support groups, youth groups can also carry out value addition processes and sales activities. Through this local economy can be improved. The same groups that are involved in these activities can also make farm inputs like Panchakavya, vermicompost and sell their products. It should be a collective effort than an individual effort, so that there will be benefit of improved economy, work sharing and access to alternative ideas.
What is important is one should not create an agency and then look for its members. Like minded farmers and youths can come together, integrate themselves and after coming to a consensus, an organization can be created so that it will function smoothly. Decisions should be taken democratically with these types of organizations. We have known many women self support groups having been destroyed due to domination of some of their members. Collective effort cannot succeed if they are not operated democratically.
The current popular market, value addition and preservation process depend on large equipment. But those kinds of equipments are not required for ‘organic green markets’, the neighbourhood markets created by farmers. Small, easy to handle, and easily available technologies are essential for organic markets. In olden days, we used simple manual tools like mortars and rollers. It is essential to revive those tools now. By doing it the livelihood of rural women can be assured. At the same time, it is not required to strictly avoid modern technologies and equipments. Based on the need, it is not wrong to use equipments and technologies that are suitable for our principles.
It is not possible to establish alternative markets in all places with the same type of principles. We need to modify some of our principles based on the place and its environment. With clear principles practical methods can be adopted. In the name of helping organic farmers it is essential to ensure that small and micro farmers gain profit. Through alternative organic markets farmers, store owners and consumers should all gain benefit.
(To be continued)
Food Safety Authority that suppresses organic markets
At the beginning of last November, there was a global conference on organic farming in Delhi. During the conference the FSSAI stated that it had made draft regulations on organic food products. It had also released a common logo towards assuring organic food products.
It is made mandatory that all organic agriculture products selling companies should have organic certification through FSSAI. At the same time, there is exception to these regulations, if the small and micro farmers and production agencies get involved in direct selling.
Though regulations are needed for organic agriculture products the FSSAI has taken its own decisions without consulting the producers and consumers.
The agency that has not taken any action to prevent food products that are produced by using chemical fertilizers and pesticides or genetically modified products, but introducing regulations only on organic food products, will only facilitate corporate companies that are in the business of selling organic products. Through these regulations, non conventional small neighborhood markets will be suppressed.
In India, organic farming is in its nascent stage. It is the duty of our government to expand the area of organic cultivation. Regulations should be drafted in such a way to identify the types of products available in specific areas, and through that the reliability of the organic products can be assured.
It cannot be said that the quality of the organic products could only be assured through organic certification. Therefore instead of making certification compulsory, it is wise to implement testing methods to check whether the products are organically grown. If those types of testing laboratories are established in each district, anyone can test the products at will. By this process, green markets can be regulated.
By July 2018, FSSAI is planning to implement the regulations. Before its implementation, it is imperative to raise strong voice of protest against those efforts that curb the growth of neighborhood markets.
(This series of articles written in Tamil by Ananthu for Pasumai Vikatan magazine dt 10th Dec 2017 has been reproduced in English by V Amalan Stanley)