This is a topic that is not directly related to the work that Tuck Stand does but is undoubtedly an indirect factor in ensuring the quality and options that our clients and customers have at their disposal. This is a topic that did not get enough media coverage and hence we felt we should voice our thoughts to help out our humble and hardworking farmers.
It has been a month and a half since the nationwide lockdown reopened, rebooting the transport system that came to a complete standstill for over a month. Even though the government promised an ample supply of dairy, raw food products, and other items under the banner of essential services, these were still inaccessible to many across the country throughout the lockdown. This could be due to miscommunication where the message wasn’t circulated to the ground level, hindering the planned processes during this pandemic. The farmers of a country heavily relying on its agricultural economy suffered the most, especially with the follow up of cyclonic weather in Eastern India and the locust attacks in the North.
For years, although we have prepared and tested schemes to support our farmers during droughts, floods, or even confrontations along our borderlines, we were never prepared for a crisis such as this one. With excess grain, overflowing granaries, and fresh vegetables at the farmers’ end, the country was unable to get them to everyone’s kitchens due to the disruption in the transportation system. With their local “mandis” being shut, the farmers were unable to sell their perishable produce across to the local food aggregators and, hence, unable to transport their over-stocked produce due to the lockdown.
With both online and offline supermarkets mainly dealing with their own fresh perishable food suppliers, the other farmers had to either travel to nearby markets to sell their produce at a cheaper rate to the consumers or were forced to dispose of excess produce, bearing the cost of losses.
It might be an easy route to blame these losses on the pandemic and the lockdown, however, with the number of “in-between” brokers and middlemen, this was a problem just waiting to explode. While it was easier for farmers who are settled close to larger townships and cities to travel and sell off their produce, the option wasn’t available to others based further away.
If supermarkets chains were to set up their own collection hubs closer to farmlands, it would not only ease the transportation costs for a farmer but would also eliminate the need of a middleman, who is mainly there to provide better margins. The government too can help with organized “mandis” and APMC yards where rather than just monitoring the fair sale of produce, the state governments can also purchase excess or leftover stocks and sell them to subsidized food processing firms.
Large food packaging or processing companies can purchase excess food directly from the farmers to produce preserves like sauces, jams, icecreams or cheese to extend the shelf lives of the food, without them being disposed of by the farmer.
Restaurant chains can reach out to various farmers to buy produces directly off them rather than either relying on a raw food aggregator or buying off the local markets. This would not only help the farmers but would also help the restaurants acquire fresh produce at cheaper rates. Smaller restaurants, canteens, and bakeries can rely on local farmers to deliver fresh produce to them rather than purchasing them off the local market.
Though most premium restaurants already work with the local producers for fresh produce, if we all do our bit, we can save a lot of lives that may have been indirectly affected due to the backlash of COVID-19. We have been having these conversations with our partner restaurants to provide them with some suggestions that, if implemented, are vital win-win situations during these tough times.