As national employment takes a dip, farmers producer companies are hiring, showing the way
FPCs are rising as a saviour for the rattled economy.
Goda Farms, a Farmers Producer Company at Kalamnuri in Hingoli district, has a job opening for 25 posts to be recruited immediately. This comes as news of mass unemployment hits, especially in Maharashtra, which witnessed a massive exodus of labourers; temporary cut off in the corporate jobs and layoffs. The state government too has cancelled its new recruitment process until next year.
In Maharashtra, the agriculture sector for selling and marketing of yields in general and Farmers Producers companies, in particular, have already started accumulating skilled and unskilled manpower amid the highest unemployment rate in the country.
Farmer Producing Organisations are institutions basically formed by farmers and sometimes that may include milk producers, fisherman, craftsman etc. All the members come together to form an entity with common interests and concern. The model is based on a cooperative society or any other form for sharing benefits. The ownership is with its members. In other words, it is an organization of the producers, by the producers and for the producers.
Godavari Vally Farmers Producer Company Limited, popularly known as Goda Farms is one of the Farmers Producer Companies (FPCs), started in 2016 out of a commitment to build a socially conscious and successful business that cultivates good food in the farms. The company helps farmers who support organic and sustainable farming. In return, it helps farmers for Packaging Practices, right inputs and the technical know-how to enhance earning opportunities.
As defined by NABARD (National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development) Farmers Producer Company is a hybrid between a Private Limited Company and a Cooperative Society, thus enjoying the benefits of professional management of a Private Limited Company as well as mutual benefits derived from a Cooperative Society.
“Those who started these Farmers Producers Companies are also common farmers like us. They shared the same background and situation which one would face before starting any business model. Goda Farms has a business of over hundred crores but there are farmers who are working in pairs and groups to find a solution in agriculture and this is something very hopeful,” said Deepak Chavan, an Agriculture and Commodity Expert.
Talking on the need of FPCs he says, “The idea of FPCs is to extend support to the farming because farmers alone cannot be an expert in pesticide and fertilisers, seeds quality, crop security at one time. The packing, marketing and selling and all other activities are not practically possible to be handled by one man alone. The procurement of all farming inputs like seeds, fertilisers and pesticide if happens at one time it saves almost 30% present as all cost is incurred in the group and seed companies give you discounts.”
Goda Farms, is a small success story which started four years back at Kalamnuri and is now spread across Hingoli, Nanded, Washim, Akola, Yavatmal and Aurangabad districts in Maharashtra. Current crops under cultivation include Soybean, Yellow Gram (Chana), Turmeric, Onion and Pomegranate.
Farmers’ Producer Organizations (FPOs) are farmers' collectives with membership mainly comprising small and marginal farmers. Presently, around 6000 FPOs (including FPCs) are in existence in the country, which were formed under various initiatives of the Government of India, State Governments, NABARD and other organizations over the last 8-10 years. Of these, around 3200 FPOs are registered as Producer Companies and the remaining as Societies, etc. considering the present population engaged in farming India the number of FPCs falls extremely low. Most of the FPCs are concentrated in few states like Madhyapradesh, Rajsthan and Maharashtra.
Sahyadri Farms, a farmers Producer Company set up at Mahadi in Nashik by connecting more than 8000 farmers has now grown to become the largest FPC in the country.
Chavan talks about some of the experiments happening across the state especially in the lockdown, “There is an organisation like Maha FPC, formed by the farmers who have set a benchmark for procuring onion, chana and toor for the government. All the yield procurement by the government for the Public Distribution System nowadays happens through farmers association.”
He further adds saying, “If this is followed at every stage of the particular crop it directly benefits the farmers. For example, farmers produce their soya bean to the private traders without any processing the same trader after cleaning and grading of the yield earns handsome return from this deal.”
Ravindra Jadhav, a farmer from Malharwadi in Rahuri started wheat seed production unit in February this year. Mula Pravara Agrotech, Producer Company Limited is FPC established in 2017 as an association of farmers as members has now got a wheat processing unit where grains procured from the farmers are cleaned and sold in the local market. A Rahuri based FPC in Ahmednagar District also offers service for former where cleaning of grains is done at minimal cost which gives handsome returns to the farmers with compare to selling grains directly to private traders.
When asked about his idea before starting a Farmers producing Company, Ravindra Jadhav says, “We started with producing seeds for Wheat, Chana and Soyabean with help of local farmers. Our target is to offer less cost for seeds even than MAHABEEJ.”
What Jadhav mentions, Mahabeej is the Maharashtra State Seeds Corporation Ltd., popularly known by its brand name “MAHABEEJ” is one of the largest and leading State Seeds Corporation among all State Seed Corporations in India serving in the larger interest of farmers.
Swapnil Bhaskar, a civil engineer is associated with the FPC decided to work in the soil. He has taken the help of social media to reach customers. The Company prefers to procure wheat from registers members and local farmers. The idea is to add value in the yield after cleaning and grading process.
"In the lockdown, we have provided wheat flour to Mumbai on an experimental basis for the first time," He says, adding “Many educated youngsters visit our plant and they are attracted towards these experiments. They have started looking for government schemes and asking questions to the system. I see if farming is done with this proper planning and taken help of this business model it will definitely help to create employment in the future. There are many schemes for farmers, we need to find them and start getting benefit out of it.”
Presently, 6 to 7 tonnes of wheat reaches to the plant at Pravara Wheat Private limited for cleaning and grading. About 35 labourers are working in the FPC as per the availability of the job in the lockdown. The company is looking forward to expanding its operation and process wheat flour to sell in the market.
Namrata Desai is a young entrepreneur started her Micro, Small and Medium Enterprise named Bolbhasha in 2016, extending help to farmers to sell their mangos and Cashew, creating a business opportunity for youngsters in the Konkan region. Talking about her experience she said, “In the beginning, it was difficult for us to convince farmers here that we will give a better price for their cashew than the private traders but they were more sceptical of how a group girls can procure the yield and help farmers. After some time, farmers started selling us cashew, not to other traders.”
She further adds saying, “The opportunities of the development are not just in bringing factories and industries by compromising the agricultural area. We have decided to find employment opportunities on our own. Now we have data on how many mangos are produced by our farmers and what is the market demand. If our parents can produce yield why our educated double graduate young generation cannot find a way to sell the same in the market?”
There is only one nearest AMPC in Konkan are at Thane, not feasible for farmers to sell their yield. In the past three years, farmers have started finding customers directly for their produce than selling to private traders at a low price. About 150 farmers from Konkan region are now associated with Namrata’s business venture. She promises a better market price for the yields farmers associated with her. Women from the Konkan region are now connected with Bolbhasha and sell their products like ready to drink refreshers like kokam sarabat and authentic preserved food of the Konkan in cities like Pune, Mumbai and also some part of Marathwada and Vidarbha region under the one umbrella.
About 2600 women who are members of different 549 self-help group (bachat gat) from Sangameshwar Tahsil in Ratnagiri district reportedly sold 10 to 12 lakh chicken in the market even after the lockdown and corona crisis.
Another farmer Anand Hule from Sindhudurg sold watermelons, mangoes and coconuts directly to distributors and customers through the Indian Post Service. He along with the association of other farmers has sold 6,000 mango packed boxes until 15th May during the lockdown.
“We will not sell our products to middleman traders even after lockdown. This is quite a profitable deal for farmers in the Konkan region and we will continue to do this” says Anand.
Deepak Chavan mentions his observation about the coverage of media which gets to Agriculture and Commodity, he says “The national media including regional media houses don’t see this as a news story and they are not applauding these efforts. When I look at the newspapers in the United States especially hyperlocal districts newspapers give a big coverage to agriculture and commodity. They usually carry full coverage on recent happenings in the agriculture, government programmes, five years plan, agro-business challenges, farming issues. He further adds saying “They discuss commodity rates, ethanol consumption and all by-products of the agriculture in the country. The idea of group farming, collective entrepreneurship actually should reach to the common farmers.”
The national policy for promotion of farmers- producer organisation says, “Collectivization of producers, especially small and marginal farmers, into producer organisations has emerged as one of the most effective pathways to address the many challenges of agriculture but most importantly, improved access to investments, technology and inputs and markets. Department of Agriculture and Cooperation, Ministry of Agriculture, Govt. of India has identified farmer producer organisation registered under the special provisions of the Companies Act, 1956 as the most appropriate institutional form around which to mobilize farmers and build their capacity to collectively leverage their production and marketing strength.”
The model of cooperatives could be successful mostly in sugarcane and milk. FPCs have also got challenges related to customized and affordable financial services. There is a need for some policy reforms as well say, industry experts.
When asked about the issues faced by the FPCs and very low rate of success and sustainability, Chavan adds saying, “Before starting a company a small group of farmers can come together and form group very cleaning and grading of the yield will be done together and then sell the produce directly in the market. These experiments are already successful and running smoothly. We don’t have entrepreneurship in our blood but I am hopeful that a new generation will take this call.”
Young farmers from Marathawada and Vidarbha were found actively using social media for marketing and get their vegetables and seasonal fruits sold at a fair price. Some of the self-help group have already approached farmers to procure agriculture inputs together at the doorstep to make savings under various government schemes.
“There are many problems and issues in agriculture. The difficulties faced by farmers and agrarian crisis have been widely talked in Marathi literature and also in rhetoric. But this is actually high time now we need a solution based narrative for the agriculture and farming; not an academic thought or something similar to NITI Ayog chairperson talking on agriculture but it has to be a practical replicable solution which works on the ground," Chavan added.