Shopian: Farmer Producer Organisation (FPO) is a potential game changer for both horticulture and agriculture farmers in Kashmir, provided storage facilities and comprehensive marketing arrangements are in place for the local produce, so that farmers are able to sell and store their produce on time.
One such FPO based at Shadab-Kareva, Abshar Potato Seed Producers Company Ltd, is in business since 2015 and has been a huge help to farmers both in terms of input and output of the produce.
According to Nadeem Majeed Sheikh, chief executive officer of the company which has now over 150 farmer members, this FPO was founded by him after help from an NGO and about Rs 6 lac start-up donation by the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARAD).
Sheikh said that in 2015 the company was registered under the Ministry of Corporate Affairs and in 2016 it sold its first produce at a handsome rate, doing away with the past practice of a hefty commission being charged by middlemen and other traders.
Sheikh said that by establishing this company, the farmers saved a lot of money by keeping at bay the commissioning agents and middlemen, who were taking a huge share of their produce.
“When we sell our produce we sell it at a collectively decided rate, since all the registered members have equal share in the company. By this, neither the produce gets low rates nor does it get wasted. Every farmer gets equal share,” Sheikh said.
Sheikh said that similarly, when they buy inputs like fertilisers and pesticides, they buy it in bulk quantity, by which they save a huge amount charged by retailers and it also saves transportation charges compared to when it was being done individually.
He said that initially there were only six members registered with the company but after demonstration programmes were held for farmers, more joined, and now there are 150 registered and 300 others working with the company.
“All the information, technical inputs, and seeds are being equally distributed among all the members,” he said.
Members of this company said that as the area’s soil is fertile for potato, they first started growing only potatoes. “We mostly produce seed potato, which can’t be grown in lower regions. The seed potato gets more rates than table potato,” Farooq Ahmad, one of the members, said.
The members, however, said that due to the lack of any storage unit in the area, the company isn’t able to store the produce for long. “A storage unit is a must for this company, as we harvest the produce in the middle of the year and then we are supposed to wait till next year’s March to sell it for seeding purposes. When there is no storage facility, a large quantity spoils,” Ahmad said.
Sheikh pointed to another problem. The uncertain political climate and the Covid19 lockdown since 2020, he said, has created problems, as at occasions farmers are not able to make the marketing arrangements needed to run the affairs smoothly.
“Now we are working to get licence for fertilisers and pesticides for horticulture purposes as well. Once it is done, we will try our hand at fruit-oriented programmes as well,” Sheikh said.
An official from the agriculture department said that all the needed technical information and knowledge is being provided to this company, besides regular expert team visits and seed and fertiliser distribution.
“We are coming up with another such company at another Shopian village, where facilities and technical information are being provided to farmers. This idea is helping the common farmer a lot; he truly becomes owner of his produce and is able to sell and buy at better rates than what is possible individually,” the official said.