Chennai: Banana farmers are confident that they have an edge over big multi-brand retailers. With their cooperative model, they are not worried by FDI in multi-brand retail. CNN-IBN travelled to Tamil Nadu to see how farmers there responded to FDI.
The banana farmers of Theni district in Tamil Nadu are not wary of FDI in multi-brand retail. They have formed a banana co-operative that deals with city traders, giving them the muscle power to negotiate better prices. AP Karuppiah, banana farmer and trader, represents over 3,000 farmers and at 150 tonnes a day, he is now the biggest supplier of bananas to Chennai.
"Our farmers are now able to earn a minimum of Rs 1 lakh more than what they did before. Where they used to earn Rs 2.5 lakh per hectare, now they earn close to Rs 5 lakh. We have also generated additional employment opportunities and ensure that people get good products. Beyond all of this, a bigger take away is that we have managed to reduce wastage by 35 to 40 per cent," Karuppiah said.
Banana farmers like Shabbir Ahmed joined hands with Karuppiah to end the constant haggling with middlemen. He gets a fair price and the co-operative ensures there is less wastage. "Now we have the confidence that we will get a good price Earlier we were unsure, sometimes we would get Rs 150 or 200 and we would lose out on wastage also. The price was inconsistent, but now we are sure we would get a fixed amount which is usually more than Rs 300 rupees per bunch. The traders pay us in totality, so we are able to plan better and our lifestyle has improved considerably," Shabbir said.
Karuppiah says these farmers are now ready for business even with tough-talking big retailers. "Whoever comes, we are confident that we can tie up with anyone and work equally in terms of quality and do business. Horticulture is a ground level business, a corporate cannot do this sitting in an A/C room. I have to step into the farm, work hand in hand with farmers and get the result. Horticulture can be done only with a good relationship between the farmer and trader. It's impossible for a multinational company to do this," karuppiah said. To deal with middlemen at the mandi, or big retail chains, it is perhaps time for Indian farmers across the country, to rediscover the co-operative model.