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When all trees have been cut down, when all animals have been hunted, when all waters are polluted, when all air is unsafe to breathe, only then will you discover you cannot eat money. - Cree Prophecy

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Ton tonna ton..

The tomatoes’ story..
Tons of tomatoes..have u seen them on the farm or have u carried it on ur shoulder? I did, very inadvertently and it hurts man..really..
As a part of the visit to Rishi valley and Chittoor areas we visited some organic farm(er)s..
One such was a 20 something farmer who has taken to organic farming since 3 years..But market was a big issue for such small farmers and that was one of the main tasks of this trip- to see, analyse and throw some solution if possible..
So as I was going around his farm he showed one part of it with lotsa tomatoes..when I asked what he was doing with them and why they were still on the field as they looked matured for harvesting..
Its then he narrated me the sorry state of tomato..The Chittor palamaner belt is tomamto area and now the farm gate buy price is Rs 2-3. yes! A kilo!
This wudnt even pay for the harvest labour cost.
So he (and many others) intend to leave the tomatoes rot in the land itself..
This being an organic farm and this Prabakar being an young fella, I wanted to do something..
But what can u do when the whole system is like this..and esp the manufacturer (farmer)has no role in the pricing! I even see a big corporate conspiracy..may be the jam and sauce guys (ofcourse these are big guys) wud be doing something to trigger such a big fall every year, so that they can buy at throw away price and enjoy that huge profit margin!
Any way I didn’t have the time to ponder anymore on this and so asked him to harvest and transport them all to Madras and I thought I shud be able to do something and sell it off, with my contacts and well wishers around..
But That was an experience..I had offered to sponsor the transportation cost just to encourage that fella..but it was to be double from what we all envisaged.
Then still when we went ahead, I receive a call right at the stroke of 12 that night that they have been caught at TN border bcos they have to pay Road tax for the vehicle the tomatoes were coming. (some goofy prob. These guys came with sufficient amount for a quarter but recent amendment of the law states they have to pay for one full year!).. They are mid way and it was midnight and I had returned just that evening after 1000 km drive..
Then some begging on fone to the authorities and assuring that I shall be at the next check post with cash to pay up, they are left and I drive to poonamalee and receive these fellas at that check post!
Then we take the 1.7 tons of tomato to perambur where some good Samaritans (big time whole salers of that area) had accepted to sell these tomatoes based on my request. That was a challenge they took and so priced these natti (local) variety tomatoes at 6/- against the wholesale rate of chemical ones for 3 & 4! Most people wud walk up to this and say ‘ wow! Looks good..its all natural is it? Same like what we used to have in our younger days.. how much?” and then they wud slowly walk across and buy the Rs 3 ones…so much for health, environment and organic!
So they had to really strive so much to sell them..since they were struggling to sell I took some 250Kgs to restore (bcos we had our bazaar the next day!)..some smart announcement by our team and heavy pitching was done. Most of our customers understood and bought out 200kgs in 2 hours..that too at Rs15/- bcos we told them it was for a cause..other 50 was sent to other organic shops in Chennai.

Atleast some hopes..
So..a costly lesson..selling them at the gate for throw away price wud have been peaceful..but how wud we all have learnt so many things?
That was 3 hectic tomato filled days..

Side bit: BTW when we were at poonamalee check post at 3am, there were a couple of guys who approached us and asked what the issue was and said there was no need to pay the tax bcos its just one time this van is going to ply here..so why waste.. they wud offer ‘guides’..what? guides?? So the ignorant me was explained that ‘ one of them the guide wud accompany this van and take them on routes where there wud be no police to catch and so the tomatoes shall be dumped where ever and they wud bring them back ‘safely’ till this checkpost and cross them over. For that the Guide needs to be paid some amount. What if police man catches we asked and he said Rs20/ for each ‘catch’ and that’s not included in the guide fees, but that’s very remote.
So innovative ways to beat the system! and rates applicable for that too! All these can happen only here!
Mera Bharath mahan!

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