In a discussion last week, an acquaintance challenged me to mention any farmer who is aware of the agricultural supply-chain beyond their village or district headquarters. Posting my response here for the benefit of the readers of this blog.
It is true that most farmers I meet in the course of my work have very little awareness of agricultural supply chains and the ways in which they can increase their incomes. But once in a while I do meet farmers who are well informed.
A few months ago I met farmers in Bihar who were growing vegetables on land leased from others, paying up to Rs. 32,000 per year per acre. It was clear that these farmers were enthusiastic and optimistic about the future, and considered themselves as professionals.
One such group in Vaishali district of Bihar was the most interesting. At the time of the visit, their fields had cauliflower.
I asked them: What is the most important thing any well-meaning organization could do to help them. Their response was very interesting.
They said that they already know how to grow vegetables. They claimed, they have not bothered increasing productivity because there are not that many buyers locally, even though their mandi is renowned as a cauliflower center. They felt that if all of them were to double their yields and sell to the mandis they normally do, they will get lower prices (because of the local glut).
The best of helping them would be to provide them access to buyers elsewhere in the country. The farmers said that if organization wanted to help them it should figure out which parts of the country do not grow cauliflowers at all or grow them in a different season than them. So that they will know different parts of the country that they can sell their cauliflowers to. And the organization could help them sell cauliflowers to other parts of the country in those months. Then, with a larger market, it would make sense for them to increase yields (which they felt confident they could do).
So this farmer group was my response to the acquaintance: a group of farmers who were not only aware of the fundamentals of supply and demand (at least in the local context), but also thinking beyond the buyers they currently had access to.