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
In the last issue of this series, we have seen about the evolution of the ‘Restore’ shop that began with an investment of Rs 50,000 in a car shed. With mere 200 square feet space of the shop, there was a sale of organic agriculture product worth more than 1.5 crores. The reasons for its success are proper administration and regulated management of its financials. Consumers continue to visit the shop in spite of its small space. Therefore, it is not important where the shop is built. But how it is operated is very much important.
The Restore shop proved that an organic shop need not have a gorgeous interior design or any kind of air conditioning. Consumers will come in search of shops where the prices are fair and the products are non-toxic and reliable. No change can be brought into if the objective is focused only on the profits. If profit is the main objective then there will not be any difference between the organic and popular shops.
At the same there exists a possibility of big companies taking over the small shops. When big companies enter this organic business, they will not care for small farmers. Moreover, wholesale procurement, middlemen, looting and artificial methods of enhancing the lifespan of products will increase.The entry of bid companies can be curtailed If more people come forward to run small organic shops,
But, there are many problems in carrying out small shops. Only a small amount of products could only be stocked as there is no space for storage of products. This may lead the farmers to hesitation in supplying their products. It would not be possible to hire more workers at the shop. Transport expenses would be more as the amount of procurement is less. But these could be averted by working collectively, integrating the operations. By integrating the organic shops, investment, procurement, transport, savings and scarcity of manpower can be easily handled.
At the time of Restore getting evolved, there were thousands of youths turned towards organic cultivation due to the motivating speeches of the organic agriculture scientist, Thiru Nammazhwar and the awareness campaign conducted by ‘Pasumai Vikatan’. Those who could not carry out organic cultivation approached us with an intention to do good to the farmers. By choosing fifteen of those interested youth Organic Farmers Market (OFM) was established in Chennai. The members build small shops in the places where middle class people live, bringing together the small farmers and consumers.
We hired a place on rent to clean, segregate and pack the organic products in order to supply to those small shops. In the same place, organic products are also sold. In a cooperative manner, every one contributed to the cause. The members go on rotation, visiting the farms directly and ensuring the quality of the products and affirming the relationship with the farmers. We come together every month to discuss and draft plans. Though these small shops operate on individual names there will be a common logo of OFM written on their board. Besides sales, awareness for consumers is also happening simultaneously.
Each shop was started with an investment between Rs 50,000 and 2 lakhs. Name of the village from where the products originate and details about the farmers who grow them are provided explicitly. Polythene bags are avoided in all those shops. There is a fixed price for vegetables throughout the year. Corporate products and mega organic brands are not sold in the shops. Suggestions and complaints from the consumers are dealt with concern. To be concise, these shops operate as an alternative to the ill effects of popular markets. An organic shop is not only a place where only non-toxic food products are sold but it’s a felt social responsibility, though collective efforts.
The cupboards, chairs and computers available in the OFM centers are donated by the consumers and friends. Though they are used ones they are in conditions. These centers will display the products that are needed for us. It is a policy that we do not buy anything new at the centers. We use products that are recyclable or reusable.
Restore has been functioning as an independent shop. OFM functions as a collective effort. These methods can be tried by all. Collective effort is the fundamental. We have been taking similar efforts in the state of Punjab, Andhra and Odisha. The same has been in the offing in Bengaluru too. It’s our duty to guide those who are interested and concerned. Let us join our hands! Let the farmers and consumers live well!
Anant, Mobile: 94441 66779
Pest management in organic shops!
Pest is the foremost problem encountered by the organic shoppers. As the organic products are grown in natural ways it is expected that there are beetles in the grains for sure. Therefore it is essential to dry the grains through sunlight or under shades, as per the nature of grains. Drying the products under the sun is the best way to remove insects and avoid infections. Traditional methods of preserving paddy, minor millets, grams and oils can be learnt from those who have expertise.
The containers and bags that store the grains should be shaken daily. It is especially needed for rice bags. By doing this insects production can be minimized.
Atmospheric moisture will reduce the life of rice. Worms will easily emerge from the rice stored in an air tight container. Therefore, traditional varieties of rice should not be stored for more than two months.
Insects can also be removed by sieving the products. Sieves with 2.8 mm to 3 mm holes can be used to sieve wheat and gram varieties. Sieves with 2 mm holes should be used for sieving rice, maize and corn.
Dry chillies, Acorus calamus, turmeric, lemon grass and neem held in small knots using a piece of cloth can be introduced into the containers of grains so as to avoid insect pests. Ten grams of acorus powder for one kg of rice can be used to protect from insects. Frequent exposure of products to smoke of neem, nochi (vitex) and thulasi (Ocimum) and also frankincense will also kill insect pests.
(This series of articles written in Tamil by Ananthu for Pasumai Vikatan magazine dt 10th Nov 2017 has been reproduced in English by V Amalan Stanley)