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September 28, 2007

Organic is about building relations - Links between farmers and consumers

Vandana Shiva spoke about the importance of creating linkages between the farmers and the consumers, in a scenario where Reliance is entering retail sector in a major way. It makes a lot of sense, to know where your food is being grown, to have a sense of attachment to the land that is producing your food because somewhere, there is a piece of land that is producing for you. It takes away the facelessness of a huge super market and I think automatically one starts to care. Navdanya currently purchases produce from about 10,000 farmers and sells it to the urban market in mostly around New Delhi. They have a store in Dehradun and are planning to open one in Mumbai.

How much do the farmers get paid? The farmers are paid 10% more than the market price. The produce is picked up at their farm, so this saves them another 10% in travel since in the typical scenario, the farmer has to truck all the produce and bear the expenses. So in all they make 20% more than they would have. Navdanya sells the produce at another 20% hike to cover their costs of travel, storage etc.

Is the food organic? The farmer members of Navdanya pledge to cultivate crops in an organic way. So, yes, it is organic. However, to get the organic certification is expensive. Till very recently, the European certification cost about Rs. 20,000 per farm per year. This is very expensive. So Navdanya used to group many farms together and get them a collective organic certificate and pay for it. Recently, the Uttarakhand state has started a certification agency whose certificate is valid in Europe too. This costs a little less: Rs. 2000 per day and the certification requires 2 visits and 1 surprise visit, ie, Rs 6000 per farm. I don’t think all their farmers are certified organic.

You can check here for information about their stores.

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