Collection centres empower small farmers

May 16, 2013

There is a silent revolution happening in the apple hills of India. An initiative to empower the small farmers of Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh has taken root wherein they are setting up joint venture companies. Six such companies, initially funded by an investor, are on the ground and the farmers eventually hope to own them once the money is repaid back to the investor.

Jagmohan Singh Kaira

Jagmohan Singh Kaira, a farmer and also the director of one such joint venture company, Purola Netwar Farm Collective Private limited, told OneWorld South Asia that historically marketing of produce, especially for the small farmers has always been a big challenge. With the joint venture companies, he hopes things will change. Excerpts from the interview.

OneWorld South Asia: How did the Puroala Netwar Farm Collective come into being and what is the basic task handled by it?

Jagmohan Singh Kaira: In 2008, Shri Jagdamba Samiti (SJS) approached the farmers of Nogaon and proposed to set up a collection centre for apples to buy these at the market price. The collection centre was to be managed by a joint venture company formed with the farmer trust and project partners, SJS and Fresh Food Technology (FFT).

Farmers from local areas sell their produce at the market rate to the collective where the collected apples are then graded, sorted, packed and also pre-cooled for further storage.

OneWorld South Asia: How many farmers are associated with Purola Netwar and how has it benefitted the local farmers?

Kaira: Around 500 farmers are associated with our company. Most of them also grow other crops apart from farming apples. For the small farmers, selling apples was a big challenge which is what weaned them away from this crop. It is not without reason that most of our partners are the small farmers, who were so far at the mercy of the traditional market chain.

Now, with the apple collection centres and the facility of cold storage coming up, more farmers are taking interest in apple farming as they can sell their produce at the market price. The farmers are also paid a premium from the profit earned by the company and is also made a shareholder.

OWSA: What assurance do the small apple growers have from such collection centres?

Kaira: The farmers are now assured that their produce would be sold at market price. This has encouraged the small farmers to invest more efforts on improving the quality of his produce. Farmers are not only provided with useful information for better farming but are also provided with certain materials which are required when the apple is ready to be plucked from the orchards.

They now know that they do not have to resort to distress selling of their produce in the wake of bad weather or unstable market conditions.

OneWorld South Asia: How do you think these facilities will boost apple farming in the hilly areas?

Kaira: The establishment of the cold storage facility for apples in Uttarakhand was a long pending demand of the farmers. These joint venture companies have brought long-term storage facilities which have boosted not just the confidence but also the morale of the farmers.

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India’s Minister for Water Resources, Harish Rawat, lauds the innovative apple project of Uttarakhand, a model that has freed small apple farmers from the clutches of middlemen besides introducing business acumen in them.
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