Even as protests rage over the farm bills that seek to change the way agri-marketing can be done, the department of agriculture in Uttar Pradesh has facilitated cultivators and Farmer Producer Companies (FPCs) in the state to establish direct linkages with aggregators and food processing firms and form unique convergences to market their produce.
In two recent examples, both in eastern Uttar Pradesh, the Maharajganj Vegetable Producer Company (MVPCL) in Maharajganj district has signed an agreement with Tuber Foods Private for the supply of sweet potato, while the other experiment is of the Mahalakshmi Producers Company (MPCL) in Deoria district which has established a convergence between three government departments – Agriculture, Education, and Rural Livelihoods – for the supply of oyster mushrooms by women cultivators for the Mid-Day Meal Scheme.
“The Maharajganj Vegetable producer Company (MVPCL) has signed an agreement with Tuber Foods, a processor from Gujarat dealing in food processing and export to the Middle East, to provide 210 tonnes of sweet potato for two cropping seasons (January and June 2021). While the vegetable fetches Rs 20/kg in the local market, Tubor Foods would pay the farmers Rs 25/ kg and would lift the produce directly from their farms. The sweet potato would be predominantly used by Tubor Foods for preparing healthier burger-patties and chips than those prepared from white potato,” said Vinod Tiwari, the founder of MVPCL.
“Earlier, farmers in our area used to cultivate different crops in a piecemeal manner and hence we could not get a good market for our produce. With Tubor Foods offering to purchase sweet potatoes, we decided to form a community farming scheme and have started contract farming. It gives us an assured market and we would be saved from looking for a viable market for our products every time. It has come as a boon to us,” he said, adding that they hope to increase their farmer strength from the 300 at present to 2000.
Meanwhile, talking about the unique linkage formed by the Mahalakshmi FPO in Deoria, Sudhakar Singh, Director MPCL said a tripartite Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed between the FPO, State Rural Livelihoods Mission (SRLM) and the Department of Education (DoE), in which oyster mushrooms would be supplied by women cultivators for the Mid-Day Meal Scheme to 100 schools in one block of Deoria district.
“As per the MoU, our FPC, which has 502 farmers, including 330 women farmers as its members, would be selling 425 kgs mushrooms month in the 1st phase. We would sell the mushrooms at a fixed price of Rs 110/ kg to the Education Department, which would have otherwise fetched us Rs 70/ kg is the local market. The Education Department has decided to include mushrooms once a week in the mid-day meal of 100 schools in Deshi block on a pilot basis. In the second phase, we will cater to 8 blocks of the district and in the third phase, all the 16 blocks would be covered,” he said, adding that while on the one hand, this experiment would provide nutritious supplements to children, on the other, market linkages developed by Mahalaxmi FPO would ensure a steady income and an assured market for women SHG members, who are also members of the FPO.
It may be mentioned that the Government of India has recently advised the State Government to include mushroom as well as honey in the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) and Mid-Day Meal (MDM), as they are known for their immunity-boosting and anti-viral properties
Talking to FE, ACS Agriculture, Devesh Chaturvedi said that it is for the first time that farm produce from Uttar Pradesh has found its way to a market in Gujarat without going through the hassles of the mandi route.
“Such inter-state trade never happened earlier because of the restrictions of the mandi system, which have now been removed. It is going to help both the farmers and the consumers,” he said, adding that in the future many other farm products would be traded directly to better markets, both interstate as well as intrastate. “The agriculture department will continue to facilitate many such tie-ups through different channels,” he added