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Using ICTs to hunt better markets for apple farmers

15 May 2013

Ashok Kumar/OneWorld South Asia

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Shri Jagdamba Samiti (SJS), a Rishikesh based NGO, is engaged in the task of empowering small apple farmers in the North Indian states of Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh, by enabling farmers to move up the economic chain. Vikram Singh, Senior Executive, ICT and Value Chain, at SJS, in an interview to OneWorld South Asia, said that ICTs could be an effective tool for imparting farm related inputs to farmers to make the reap a quality harvest. Excerpts from the interview.

OneWorld South Asia: How do you think the apple project run by SJS with the help of farmer Trusts makes for a sound business venture?

Vikram Singh: There are many gaps in the traditional supply chain. Due to the lack of cold storage facilities, farmers do not get right price for their produce in the traditional supply chain.

Around 20 to30 per cent of the apples produced get wasted due this flawed supply chain. SJS has created the infrastructure which would not just address such efficiencies but also taken farmers on board for making decisions which are in the interest of the apple growers.

The six procurement centres which are run by the farmer-led companies are serving as basic platforms of this chain which is both operated and managed in partnership with the farmers.

OneWorld South Asia: How is the apple project using ICT as a tool for benefitting the apple farmers?

Singh: An efficient information flow is required at the farm level to communicate with the farmers for providing them with timely inputs regarding the kind of varieties which are in demand and the general market conditions.

Apple being a perishable community, timely procurement, storage, pre-cooling and transportation is required. These services cannot be accomplished without the help of a proper ICT system.

With the help of experts, a forecast plan is prepared for every season, which is communicated to the apple growers with the use of devices like the mobile phones.                                                                                                                               

OneWorld South Asia: How is this forecast plan prepared and in what way is the relevant information disseminated to the farmers?

Singh: The collection centres which are jointly run by the farmers go to the orchards and accumulate the primary data according to the number of trees and other such inputs.

The data collected at the level of these collection centres is then uploaded on the website which is accessible to experts in centralized office at Dehradun. Based on this data, certain inputs are then transmitted to farmers with through mobile phones.

An initiative is also being launched to train these farmers, so that they themselves can upload the primary data regarding their apple orchards which would be then used to devise strategies which suits the best interests of the apple growers.

OneWorld South Asia: How does the forecast plan help the farmers and the six joint venture companies (JVCs)?

Singh: Forecast is required to create the required infrastructure used right from the plucking of fruits to the storage and marketing, like making necessary arrangements for apple crates.

Mobiles can also be used as a tool to be used for efficient marketing.  We can have data for prices for various grades of apples and devise a strategy to sell them for maximum profits like in the event of market prices going down, low quality apples could be used for extracting juice.

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