Tuesday, October 14, 2014


The organic food movement which started in a small way a few years ago to satisfy the growing demand in the market for safe foods produced/processed without using synthetic chemicals and other unnatural inputs has become a force to reckon with to day. Its share may not be high, less than 10% of the food sector market, every one wants to get into this band wagon and this has naturally caused some distortions vis-a-vis quality of organic foods in some parts of the world. Similarly the local foods and farmers market movement became a rage in the US, most states providing a platform for the small farmers in the locality and nearby to sell their products directly to the consumer without any middle man or retailer in between. The basic presumption is that local farmers bring their produce from nearby with least green gas emission foot print unlike the long haulage involved in most organized retail operations. Besides small farmers are presumed to be honest and do not indulge in unfair agricultural practices. Most farmers markets maintain a degree of integrity that has endeared them to consumers. However recent findings that there are frequent frauds happening in this sector is raising eye brows all around. Here is a take on this subject as reported from the US.

"One doesn't usually think of farmers' markets as being prime locations for fraud, but apparently they do see their fair share of unethical behaviour. When a vendor misrepresents products, whether through direct mislabeling or lack of labeling, the integrity of the market is undermined for everyone. The state of California has decided to crack down on farmers' market fraud. Last week, Gov. Jerry Brown signed a new law authorizing the creation of a group of investigators to ensure that market vendors are following the rules – that is, selling local produce that they've grown themselves and was not purchased wholesale. Every market has its own set of regulations. In New York City, most of the major farmers' markets are run by a non-profit organization called GrowNYC, which ensures that markets are producer-only. That means that vendors can only sell items that they've grown themselves; no reselling, even if clearly labeled, is allowed. As Modern Farmer reports, GrowNYC maintains its high standards by employing investigators who keep an eye on vendors, taking note of any suspicious things such as retail boxes, waxed fruit, or consistently high volume of produce."

It is gratifying that states like California are promulgating stricter laws to deter potential fraudsters from -misrepresenting the products as locally self grown while really they are resellers owning no responsibility for any violations. Farmers market is an excellent concept worth emulating all over the world to encourage small farmers who are at the mercy of mega corporations dealing with food for reaching the market. In India it is incongruous to see a situation where government does not allow direct selling of farmers produce to the consumer. In stead only middle men are licensed to buy the produce from the farmers and most of the time the prices are rigged leading to exploitation of the poor farmers by these sharks. Even in a country like Malaysia there are so called "wet markets" where any one can bring their produce to the market for direct sale to buyers. The weekly shandies in some states in India, mostly in rural parts, do serve the purpose of direct sale but in cities direct sale is not invariably permitted. States in the US like California and New York have strong monitoring regime for safeguarding the integrity and credibility of the Farmers markets and fraudsters are severely punished for violating the concerned regulatory regime put in place for the purpose. India must consider removing the much hated APMC Act that comes in the way of setting up exclusive markets for farmers all over the country, providing necessary infrastructure for handling and storage of perishables and ensuring fair trade practices.


No comments: