Following the footsteps of the Co-operative Department, the State Horticulture Department will set up 50 farm-fresh vegetable outlets in the city to supply vegetables below market prices.

The Tamil Nadu Horticulture Producers Co-operative Enterprises Ltd (TANHOPE) has already floated a company – Chennai Horticulture Produce Producers Company Ltd (CHPPCL) – for implementing the project in the Chennai peri-metro area. Interestingly, the scheme was sanctioned in 2011-12 with an investment of Rs. 17 crore. It was followed by creation of 254 clusters with 4,970 farmers. However, the project could not take-off due to non-availability of aggregators. Aggregators are those who run the entire supply-chain management to keep the vegetables fresh as per the guidelines of small farmer agri-business consortium. The aggregator can either be a co-operative society, cluster of farmers, existing agencies and leading farmers or traders.

The department plans to have 10 aggregators for five collection centres – Chennai, Kancheepuram, Tiruvallur, Vellore and Tiruvannamalai – to create a healthy and competitive environment. The aggregators will be given two trucks – a six-tonne truck and a one-tonne vehicle – for transporting vegetables. They will also have access to two mobile vending vehicles, sources said.

As per the proposed plan, about 20 farmers will form a cluster to supply their produce to collection centres at the district level. Private markets’ aggregators will collect, sort, grade and pack the produce at their locations and supply it to retail outlets in the city. The procurement price will be paid to farmers the same day.

Talking to The-Hindu, a top official said: “In the next three to four days, we will issue expression of interest (EoI) inviting aggregators to take part in the project. Prior to that, we will have a meeting to know their requirements as these aggregators will be the vital link between farmers and consumers. Eventually, the plan is to have 100 farm-fresh outlets in the city.”