Tuesday, August 9, 2022

Propaganda busted: Adani a game-changer boon for Himachal apple growers

  • Record 7,000 tonnes of apples procured till date
  • Day 1 procurement of 1,000 tonnes vs 300 tonnes last year
  • Apple prices in Mandis have plummeted
  • Superior sorting and grading facility attracting apple farmers to ‘Farm-Pik’
  • Direct benefit to farmers, no middlemen involved
  • Assured payments within days via direct debit

Amid the huge debate about opening up the farm sector in this country through reform. What’s actually going on at the ground level? We’ve seen incessant agenda-driven belly-aching and stalling by those who want to ensure that it’s the middlemen who stay rich and farmers stay poor. The most recent tirade has been against Adani Agri Fresh and it’s apple procurement in the hills.

Well here’s a ground reality check. Adani Agri Fresh apple procurement is actually at record levels. The reasons are simple. Famers are flocking to them because of better prices, better facilities and better treatment.

We spoke to the apple farmers on the ground. The biggest win for them is that they get paid through a direct online transfer within days. There are no commissions, hold-ups, running after middlemen for months and years to clear dues. In the past, thousands of farmers have been stuck with non-paid dues on one pretext or the other. This highway robbery has been ended by a simple move. A transparent option.

Narvir Singh, who hails from a village in Himachal and is an apple grower told us, ‘Today if you want to sell apples in the market, there are many issues. You have to deal with packaging, transportation, selling. Then there’s the major issue of getting payment. Whenever we sell outside, we never get the full payment. There is always a commission that is cut. We don’t have that hassle here. Get your apples, bring them here, within 15 days you get the payment in your account online. We hope that while we are growing apples, Adani Agri Fresh stays here.’

Manjeet Sheelu is a frontline procurer for Adani based out of village Rewali in Kotgarh near Shimla. He tells the simple story, ‘Farmers are coming to us as they get saved from the clutches from middle-men. If you look at the past several years, crores of rupees of farmers’ payments are stuck with aarithyas. At our facility, they get an assured payment within 10 days, directly credited to their accounts digitally.’

The second big win the farmers tell us is that they don’t get paid by the number of apples, they get paid by the kilo and gram. Yes, the metric system. It’s not rocket science, some apples are big, some are small. A simple change in price parameters has made the system fairer.

The third most important thing the farmers say is non-discrimination. Earlier, big farmers producing bulk quantities controlled the best pricing. No more. Here everyone gets paid the same rate per kilo on the quality. Period.

The fourth big win is packaging. Yes, believe it or not, the middlemen at mandis make farmers pay for the wooden/cardboard boxes in which you finally get your apples. Then they make money selling them the same boxes. Adani does it’s own packaging. A clear Rs. 250-a-pop saving for every farmer, every time.

Surendra Mahipal, another local grower tells us, ‘I’ve been coming here since 2006. We’ve been getting good prices since 2006. We also save 200-250 rupees on packaging. That’s why we’ve been coming here for the past 15 years. Chukidar Singh, another grower told us, ‘I’ve been coming here for the past 8 years. We are having no problems. We are saving on the cost of cardboard packaging. We are being protected from loot. We are happy. It’s cheaper to come here also. Things are going well.’

The fifth big win is the knowledge resources. The farmers tell us they are getting soil testing, leaf testing and visits from scientists to help them cut fertilizer cost and improve quality and yield. Adani procurement centres have these testing labs conveniently located in-house. No aarithya and no mandi does this. They’re just interested in squeezing the farmer, not in increasing their yield.

Another apple farmer Randhir Singh told us, ‘We have been working with the Adani team for the past 6 years. We have learnt a lot regarding the business, production, quality and marketing. We have also been educated on maintaining good health and hygiene. When we had problems of hail storms, they got together with others and provided us netting to protect our produce. This was a huge help. This has built a relationship. We have faith in them, they put faith in us.’

When the hail comes, the Adani team helps provides farmers with netting to protect the apples. That’s the difference between a bruised, battered and destroyed crop and a profitable harvest.

Hills apple farmers sold 1,000 tonnes this year to Adani Agri Fresh on Day 1 of procurement. That’s right, in 24 hours. That’s a 3x increase from the same day last year. Total procurement has now crossed 7,000 tonnes in just the first few days. A record.

Farmers are coming to Adani Agri Fresh in record numbers because this is exactly what competition does. Adani gives a fairer, better price. The mandis in turn then have to increase their prices to keep up.

State-of-the-art sorting machinery, which is a pipe-dream at aarithya strongholds, means farmers get a fair and transparent analysis on quality. This is where middlemen price gouging is the worst. They squeeze the famers on quality in a product where the grade can determine anything between Rs. 300 to Rs. 2,200 for a typical box. A transparent tech-enabled mechanism was needed here. Adani got it. The farmers are saying thanks.

Mukesh, another apple grower tells us, ‘We have been bringing our apples here for the last 3-4 years. We get good rates by the kilo. There has been no discrimination. We get paid as per the quality and quantity of the apples. It’s been a very good experience. We have never had any payment issues, our dues are cleared on time’.

Where you know the stories of India’s food rotting away at mandis, Adani’s controlled atmosphere facilities mean they can store and maintain apple quality for 10 months. That’s better apples for you, when you want them, all-year around. Less reliance on imports in the off-season. And surety for farmers. Adani knows it can store longer, so it can buy more at a better prices, because losses are less. That’s the efficiency of market economics, better storage and processes.

So for all the Adani bashers and baiters out there, both farmers and market forces, logic and reality are exposing nonsense agendas. India’s modernizing its procurement with huge investment in local growing areas, cold chains, better transport and fairer pricing. Adani is doing it. Let’s hope they do more. Let’s hope others follow suit. That’s how farmers’ incomes will double. By cutting waste and cutting out the looters in between. It’s okay to make a profit, but the market needs to give farmers options. They just got one and they’re showing up with truckloads. 17,000 of them in Himachal alone. That’s the fact of what’s happening on the ground. The rest is short-sighted agendas.



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