Farm fresh grapes at farm gates – farmers become entrepreneurs by taking to direct marketing

Even as farmers all over the country are struggling to market agri-produces and cursing middlemen and commission agents for paying poor price, that are not meeting even their production costs and appealing to the governments to fix better price for their produces, grape growers in Dindigul district have brought a revolutionary change in the way they are marketing their fruits, creating a model, that is best, for their counterparts in other areas to emulate.

‘Farm fresh grapes at farm gate’ is their marketing concept. They neither spend single paisa for marketing and nor run from pillar to post in search of customers. Above all, their customers are anywhere in India.

A vast stretch of four-lane National Highway-7 between Kodai Road and A Vellode is their prime market base and their main customers are not the local people. They come from all corners of India to their farm gate to buy farm fresh grapes.

Multi-colour flex boards describing high quality farm fresh grapes greet these travellers on both sides of the NH-7. Men and women, holding out bunches of fresh grapes in their hands, too signal these customers to stop their speeding vehicles. Dawn-to-dusk is the sale time.

To satisfy such valuable customers, innovative farmers lure them with unimaginably cheaper prices. Customers can get one kg of grapes for Rs.30 a kg, enjoying 33 per cent rebate on prevailing market price. (Grape price at fruits shops in towns is Rs.45 and Rs.50.)

Another major benefit is that customers buy fresh fruits plucked from the farm before their eyes. Shelf life is also high for these fruits. At the same time, farmers register a three-fold profit.

“When we sell it to commission agents, they fix different prices for every plucking. They reduce the price for fruits during second and third plucking. It is hard to get Rs.10 a kg for the best quality. If the production is high, prices will crash to Rs.7 and some times to Rs.6 a kg. With no storage facility, we cannot stock plucked fruits and are forced to sell to agents at a very low price,” says Muthu Pandi of Uthupatti in Nilakottai block. “Now, we pluck fruits on the basis of demand. Post harvest loss is very less. Freight charge is nil,” he adds.

“We sell at least 300 kg a day on weekdays and 400 to 500 kg on weekends,” say many farmers.

This silent revolution is making ripples in that area. Today, many growers have come to the street to boost their income and profit margin. Some progressive farmers even depute farm workers in direct marketing.

At last, grape farmers have become entrepreneurs taking care of marketing on their own. Grape is being cultivated on around 150 to 200 hectares in Dindigul, Nilakottai and Athoor blocks in the district.