Published: 23rd April 2020
How the Organic Farm-hand is helping farmers deal with wastage of produce during the lockdown
Alladi Mahadevan, Founder of The Organic Farm, has been harnessing the power of social media to connect farmers directly to customers in a bid to reduce wastage caused by the lockdown
Since the lockdown began, farmers across the country have been facing a huge economic loss as they are forced to sell their produce at much lower prices. In many states like Tamil Nadu, this comes at a time when farmers are all set to reap a great harvest, after a good monsoon season. One of the biggest factors that has affected farmers now is the movement of produce due to restrictions on transportation.
However, agri-entrepreneurs like Alladi Mahadevan, Founder of The Organic Farm have been trying innovative ways to help farmers cope with the loss. The Organic Farm is an initiative to produce high quality organic products and was started way back in 1995. They grow up to 1,000 different native varieties of fruits, vegetables, rice, herbs, flowers, oil seeds, pulses and legumes.
Speaking about the effect of the lockdown, Mahadevan says, "Initially, the transportation hit the farmers very badly because movement of produce became difficult. This led to a lot of wastage. Especially during the Tamil New Year, the time of the harvest, there was a lot of produce that was wasted. The other reason was that shops, restaurants and corporate canteens were closed."
Storage is almost a non-option for any farmer. He adds, "Watermelon, musk melon, brinjal, tomato, okra and beans — these fruits and vegetables don't last for more than two days. So it gets wasted. My area is known for growing watermelons, musk melons and bananas. In order to help the farmers, we started taking videos of them harvesting and putting it up on social media. Immediately, we started getting a lot of response from apartments and societies. They grouped together and started ordering larger quantities, for instance, we started getting orders for 100 houses together. This has brought some relief to almost four to five villages near our farms.
What can the government do more to help the farmers? He explains thoughtfully, "Government procurement from farmers should increase. They should start introducing juice kiosks at Amma Unavagams, Corporation and government establishments where people are still working. If it's done with all the precautions, people will be willing to buy. It will also generate an alternative income and employment to small-scale business owners who are affected. They can set up their shops there. Farmers are at a lower health risk. They work directly under the sun, in soaring temperatures, so their risk of contracting the virus is relatively lower than in urban areas."
Speaking about how this economic crisis for farmers could be turned around, Mahadevan suggests, "This could be the start of an opportunity for communities to work directly with farmers. This will ensure a fair pricing for farmers. What happened since the lockdown is that that there was no demand and excessive supply. So the prices went down. They usually get Rs 12 for a watermelon and now it's being sold at Rs 1.50 to Rs 2. There is a great opportunity here that will benefit both farmers and the community. We can make much better use of technology. Through WhatsApp and other apps, people like us can facilitate such kind of buying. Normally, it goes to a wholesale market, then to grocery stores. It takes a few days. People can instead get fresh produce directly from farmers. There's also a price advantage for both the farmers and the people."
If you would like to buy fresh organic produce delivered to your house, contact The Organic Farm at 9840277566