Bangalore: Bangaloreans were seen actively participating in the ‘Savayava Santhe’, the organic bazaar, a special awareness programme held on Feb 11, organised by Jaivika Krishi Society (JKS) run by the Government of Karnataka for development and promotion of organic farming.
Though there is sufficient demand and supply for organic produce, as observed, at the grass-roots level, farmers were not reaping the benefit of higher sale price.
Problems faced by farmers
Narasihma Reddy, a farmer from Gauribidanur , who is into organic farming for the last two decades said that the government has not made enough efforts to build a marketing platform for organic produce.
“Though we do not spend on pesticides unlike in conventional farming which increases the cost, we spend a lot on transporting the goods which almost doubles our input cost per unit, which reduces our profit margins,” Reddy said.
Reddy travels thrice in a week to Bangalore to deliver his produce to retailers and individual customers as he does not find enough market at his place for the produce.
Also, majority of the farmers who had come from different parts of Karnataka to participate in the organic bazaar said, the subsidies do not reach the farmers on time and fully.
Lakshminarayan S, a software professional who is into sustainable agriculture and rural development projects feels that it is the middlemen in the supply chain who create artificial demand and try to sell the products at higher price.
“There needs to be a proper pricing mechanism and it needs to be controlled and regulated. Though the input cost should be lesser for organic produce, in the retail market, sometimes the prices are double and triple,” said Lakshminarayan.
Such practice discourages the farmers to switch to organic farming. Farmers fear that, in the retail market if the prices of organic food is much higher, then the customers might not buy the organic produce irrespective of its quality.
Subhash Palekar, a farmer from Udukunte village in Magadi taluk said, Rose apples were sold by him at Rs 60-70 per kilogram, however, in the retail outlets, the same was being sold for more than Rs 200.
In contrast, the marketing agents tend to argue that since the demand for organic food is not that large, the cost of processing, packaging and transportation increases the product cost.
Interestingly, the Additional Director and President of Jaivika Krishi Society Dr K Ramakrishnappa said the government can only facilitate, but cannot market the products. There has to be a cooperation or intervention from private parties, he observed.
“Only 43 per cent of the market price reaches the farmer. There are no organised channels here or market linkages like the Horticultural Producers Co-operative Marketing and Processing Society,” Ramakrishnappa said.
Adding that the dampening population of cattle and reducing soil fertility is adding to the woes of the farmers, Ramakrishnappa said, the government would help in setting up of pack-house if a cluster of farmers come together.
“There are not many big retailers who are ready to invest in this segment. They only look for short-term gain,” said Bharath B, marketing manager at Phalada Agro Research Foundations Pvt Ltd.
The way out
The Jaivika Krishi Society plans to organise ‘organic fairs’ at district headquarters once in three months to create more awareness among the prospective customers. It also plans to open an ‘organic mall’ in Bangalore to attract customers.
“The only way out for organic farmers is, when there are enough collection centres set up, like in milk cooperative societies and are fully supported and run by farmers with ‘Participatory Guarantee Systems’, locally focused quality assurance systems,” said Ramakrishnappa.
(A different version of this article was published in TNIE city edition dated Feb 13, 2012)