Tuesday, January 29, 2013


Increasing farmer suicide cases in India is a disturbing trend that ought to be addressed by the government and there is some how a feeling persisting with successive governments that giving subsidies can take care of farmer problems. No wonder India cannot raise the level of value addition to the agricultural commodities and to a large extent this can be traced to very low entrepreneurial aspirations among the farming community. While saluting hundreds and thousands of villages in the country where millions of farmer families toil hard to produce adequate food for self consumption as well as earning a livelihood through sale of surplus production to non-farming population, the subsistence level of living in grossly under developed village environment with sub-human conditions and daily miseries make them permanently disabled to do any thing constructive. Why the country is not attempting to create village based processing facilities by providing necessary inputs for value addition to the basic commodities is despicable. Even if these unfortunate "second class" citizens of the country are provided the needed financial inputs through government agencies, from where do they get other inputs like technology, infra support and marketing muscle? Here is an example coming from a developed country like the US which has understood the critical importance of food in the local economy and facilitate the processing and marketing of locally produced food materials through creation of "Food Hubs" which link the farmer, local technical resources and the consumer in a sustainable way.  

"By developing a local "food hub," organizers hope they can provide a centralized facility that can buy and aggregate locally produced food and make it available to larger, institutional buyers in the area on a regular basis. "A food hub is that linkage between the local farmers and the institutions, like schools, hospitals, the jail, the grocery stores and the restaurants that want to have access to local foods," said Eileen Horn, who directs the work of the Food Policy Council. "The customers are asking for it, and there's public interest in it, but they can't access enough consistent supply." Horn and other members of the Food Policy Council told Douglas County Commissioners last week that efforts to develop a local food hub in Douglas County will be one of their top priorities in the coming year. "What the Food Policy Council has been talking about in terms of a food hub is really what could be that central site that could aggregate, warehouse, maybe have some cold storage and some light processing for food so it would make it simpler for our community members to access that food from a single point," Horn said in a recent interview. The Food Policy Council was established by the County Commission in 2009. "Basically the Food Policy Council works to identify the benefits, the challenges and the opportunities for a local food system in Douglas County," she said. "So we're looking at what could be the health benefits for the community; what could be the local economic development benefits for our community; and then what are some of the barriers we could look at from a policy perspective to help build a vibrant food system that would support our local farmers and our community members." Traditionally, Kansas agriculture is known for producing a limited number of commodities in vast amounts – wheat, corn and soybeans, as well as beef and pork. But Horn says smaller-scale producers in Douglas County and the surrounding area are now producing large volumes, and a surprisingly wide variety of fruits and vegetables on nearly a year-round basis. She said much of that is the result of local growers investing in "high tunnels" — semicircular hoop structures that are relatively inexpensive and function as modified greenhouses to extend the growing season. "That has really changed the game in terms of season extension, because now you can get greens – there are local greens available in grocery stores right now, in January, and that's because of the season extension and high tunnels and greenhouses that people are utilizing," she said. Local and regional food hubs have grown in popularity in recent years, in part because of support from state and federal departments of agriculture.

India is a country dominated by middle men and pre-harvest contractors who exploit the helplessness of the farmer in cornering the harvested produce at ridiculously low prices and selling the same at exorbitant prices to the easily vulnerable consumer! Elimination of such intermediaries from the system can substantially increase the farmer income while making the same available to the consumer at very reasonable cost. Milk industry under the cooperative sector has demonstrated that producers can get as much as 70-80% of the consumer price by eliminating most of the private players from the scene. The much hyped APMC yards, supposed to be helping the farmer are becoming joke of the country and any how they are going to be dismantled soon under the pretext of economic liberalization and much hyped foreign investment regime. The Agro-industries Corporations in different States which could have been powerful interlocutors with the farmers have been made to wither away through lack of government support. Local foods have great relevance because they are fresh, easily accessible, cost-wise cheaper and have minimum carbon foot print. Sooner such hubs are created better it will be for the farmers and consumers of this country!


No comments: