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Business and farmers: A beneficial partnership

May 17, 2013

At one of the sessions of the “Partnering for Rural Prosperity: Farmers as Owners” business and farmers came together to discuss ways in which both can come together in mutually profitable ways.

Farmers and businesses have either often been at loggerheads, but at the conference “Partnering for Rural Prosperity: Farmers as Owners” businesses and farmers came together to discuss models where both gain and prosper. The second session of the day-long conference, “Partnerships with businesses for prosperity: towards shared business benefits in value chain a win-win situation” looked at the role businesses can have in building good supply and value chains while ensuring farmers get their share of the profit.

The session started with the need to connect corporates with farmers, keeping in mind that the corporate sector has a responsibility towards the agriculture sector and needs to step in where the government cannot act. The session tried mulling over the role corporates can play in giving farmers their due.

The panel comprised of BB Singh, GM, Business Development, Tata Chemicals; Manoj Singh, MD, Chandel Agritech Solutions; Ashmeet Kapoor, Founder & CEO, I Say Organic; Vikram Singh “ Senior Executive, SJS; Amar Singh Kafola, Farmer Director, Kincaid; and the session was moderated by Rakesh Sood from OneWorld Foundation.

During the talk, many issues came to the table, which talked about the need for more concrete ways to connect corporate bodies and farmers. BB Singh of Tata Chemicals talked about making the markets more accessible and how organisations should make it a point to know how their work is making an impact on farmers in far-flung areas.

Keeping in with this, Singh put forward his idea of making leasing of land legal in India. Currently only a few states in India have leasing of land legal, namely, Punjab, Bengal, and Maharashtra. This legality issues creates a hurdle with almost 30 per cent of the 132 million acres of farm land illegally on lease.

Manoj Singh of Chandel Agritech Solutions talked about the need to “look at farmers not as leaders but as CEOs.” For Singh, there is a need to change the way farmers think and act. He talked of aspects like upgrading knowledge and thinking of knowledge at a global level in aspects of production, technologies, post-harvest management. And using new technologies and mechanisms like Climate Smart agriculture, where apples are produced which do not need as much chilling, for instance. BB Singh also agreed to this point and pointed out to the need to use better IT technologies to ensure more profits.

The issue of skills picked up after BB Singh talked of the need for more skills development in these villages. He gave examples of projects by Tata Chemicals where employees refused to stay in far-flung areas. His solution for this was to set-up training schools, where various people are trained in myriad aspects of agriculture.

To give the other perspective, that is the urban one, Ashmeet Kapoor talked about the emerging market for organic food, especially in the big cities. Kapoor’s company “I Say Organic” is looking at increasing the consumer movement in India and ensuring farmers get more for their crops.

Kincaid’s Vikram Singh, talked of traditional supply chain set-ups and the problems they face. Singh talked of the need to take out the middle-men from the supply chains and how regulations should be out in place through which the farmers themselves can monitor. For example, he gave the instance of long term storage facilities, which would create systems which farmers can monitor themselves and transparent pricing systems through which the farmers can judge prices themselves.The talk ended a bit abruptly due to lack of time, but judging by the questions and issues raised it seemed the farmer-corporate alliance was well on its way to becoming a mutually benefitting one, if done properly.

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