Saturday, June 8, 2013


Fresh vegetable consumption on a regular basis as part of one's diet can be a game changer when it comes to maintaining good health and protection from many diseases. World over it is recommended that half the dinner plate should be made up of vegetables and fruits though due to many factors people are not able to access so much fresh produce for their regular consumption. Even among vegetables greens and colored ones are preferred because of their better health conferring credentials. Carrot is one vegetable, generally liked by young as well as the old, which provides high levels of vitamin A and carotene having properties to protect eyes and good vision while its other vital nutrients are of immense value to humans. Though India is one of the top fruit and vegetables producing countries in the world, due to highly perishable nature of these horticultural crops substantial damage and waste are caused denying millions of consumers affordable access to their benefits. Probably low intensity technology, improper agricultural practices, sub-optimal inputs, unscientific post harvest handling and storage and lack of infrastructure for delivering them in prime condition to the consumer are all to be blamed for this sorry situation. Against such a background the emergence of an organization taking up the cause of the much loved Ooty carrot is a welcome news and here is a take on this important development in this sector. 

"Ooty and its neighbouring areas are ideal for growing carrots. This region accounts for supplies of about 100 tonne a day to various states and for export. Farmers from Ooty take their harvest to the Mettupalayam mandi, pay the broker a fee and sell the produce at the prevailing rate. However, brokers discount the price for bad produce, sometimes as high as 30 per cent. Thus, many farmers are at the mercy of brokers. Amid these goings-on, P Vijayaraghavan, a resident of Ooty, was keen to improve the lot of farmers and, at the same time, structure a business around this. After working closely with R Manoharan, an established carrot farmer, Vijayaraghavan came up with a plan to collect harvested carrots from farmers, pay for the produce on the spot, clean and segregate the produce according to size, pack these in clean bags and transport it in refrigerated trucks to retail stores in cities and towns. And, Lawrencedale Estates & Farms (LEAF) was formed".

It is not that LEAF is the first organization attempting to achieve what is impossible in a country like India where fresh produce and garbage are treated equally and consumers are denied access to to good quality produce. One of the earlier efforts came from National Dairy Development Board (NDDB), Anand, as early as 1984, to organize fruit and vegetable growers into village cooperatives which could feed a centralized processing facility for cleaning, sorting, grading, packing and marketing through air conditioned kiosks in Delhi. Even to day NDDB is continuing this job but failed to make any significant impact nationally during the last three decades of its operation. This is understandable because there are umpteen number of problems in organizing the farmers in this country and unless there is absolute cooperation and  coordination of various players including the government concerned with this sector, precious little of any substance can be achieved.  New attempts by players like LEAF in the private sector may yet succeed because of the dramatic growth of retail sector anticipated as a result of the new policy of investment in retailing where foreign investment is cleared only if 30% of the products are accessed locally and 50% of the gross investment is made for creating back end infrastructure facilities. 


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