Rajasthan farmers reaping harvest of value addition

Rajasthan farmers reaping harvest of value addition

Value addition in agriculture sector continues to be a slow process in the country. During the peak harvesting season, farmers are forced to sell their produce at throwaway prices with no adequate storage or processing facilities.

However, farmers in Bharatpur district Rajasthan have taken baby steps to process their produce and sell them with a little help from an NGO. This has transformed their lives like never before and could be a model for farmers in other parts of the country.
The initiative taken in the field of food processing in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra is providing value addition to agricultural produce and giving profits to farmers despite their lack of requisite knowledge for scientific methods and improved techniques. 

The shift to cash crops and useful practices of cultivation of vegetables, fruits and other crops which fetch better prices has been spurred by factors such as increasing input costs in traditional farming, climate change and availability of farm produce at low prices in the open market system. 

While understanding the requirement of farmers, the Lupin Human Welfare and Research Foundation working in Bharatpur district for three decades has taken up food processing in three states, which has started yielding positive results. 

The initiative has led to production and marketing of several products in small towns, where such ventures were unhea­rd of in the past. While pickle, murabba, jam and jelly are being produced in Bharatpur district, Sindhudurg district in Maharashtra is getting a new identity for manufacturing of several new food products. Foundation’s Executive Director Sita Ram Gupta pointed out that farmers had started getting three times higher prices for their produce than what they were getting earlier. The food processing activities have also created new employment opportunities for thousands of people other than farmers.

As many as 25 units are functioning in Bhusawar town in Bharatpur district for preparing pickle of mango, lisoda, green chilly, bitter melon and cauliflower. The foundation has provided financial assistance and technical guidance to these units, which make use of the agricultural produces grown locally around Bhusawar. Besides 36 types of pickles, the small units produce chutney and murabba of karonda and aonla (Indian gooseberry) and supply about 800 quintals of these products to big cities in Rajasthan as well the metros in the country. 

Gupta pointed out that the farmers, who double up as entrepreneurs, were earning two-fold profits in comparison with the market. This initiative has made agriculture a profitable venture when in other places farmers are forced to commit suicide, he pointed out. Now, they have more disposable income for other expenses like meeting the education of their wards. The effect is all pervading, claimed Gupta.

Similarly, Saman village in Kumher tehsil of Bharatpur district produces 150 quintals of aonla murabba ever year. Amar Singh, who was the first to launch the work in the village, has employed 20 people in his unit. He sells his produce in khadi fairs and earns Rs 1 lakh to Rs 1.5 lakh within three months every year. 

“Our products are in great demand at khadi melas organised all over the state,” he said. A women’s self help group has obtained loan from the Rashtriya Mahila Kosh for making mango pickle in Chhamdi village and is selling it in and around Bharatpur town. The foundation’s assistance has led to a turnaround in production and utilisation of kathal (jackfruit), which was earlier sold for just Rs 5 to Rs 6 per kg in Sindhudurg district in Maharashtra. Farmers used to throw away jackfruit in the fields as there were no takers.

Gupta said jackfruit was now used for producing laddu and chocolates and they fetch them handsome profits. The foundation provided loans to farmers for manufacturing food products of jackfruit and encouraged several women’s self help groups for the work. The jackfruit laddus are sold in large numbers during the Ganesha Chaturthi festival in the region. They are supplied to shops and consumers in clean packets and remain fresh for about two years. They are rich in protein and calcium. The foundation’s decision to provide financial resources to women’s self help groups in Pune district of Maharashtra for production of vermicelli consumed by the members of all communities during their festivals has proved beneficial.

Women in villages such as Bucheki Badi in Junnar tehsil are on road to become self-sufficient with the sale of vermicelli in the state-level fairs.

The Rajasthan Government has approved establishment of a state-level food processing centre in Bharatpur for better processing of fruits and vegetables. The centre has started functioning from Kisan Bhavan of the Rajasthan State Agricultural Marketing Board.
The process for land acquisition for the centre is underway. It will  train farmers and agricultural entrepreneurs in food processing, value addition to milk and milk products, poultry farming, meat production and bakery and drinking stuff. Besides Bharatpur, the centre will benefit the farmers in the nearby Karauli, Dholpur, Sawai Madhopur, Alwar and Dausa districts.

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