Collective bargaining helps farmers sell jackfruit directly to big players
A yellow revolution has taken place silently in the jackfruit-growing belt of some 75 villages in Tubagere hobli of Doddaballapur taluk, which have an estimated 3,500 jackfruit trees.
Jackfruit, once a side crop, has now taken pride of place in this dry zone with the average crop income increasing nearly fivefold in the last five or six years. “I was getting about Rs. 1,000 to 1,500 a tree a year in 2007. Now this has increased to the range of Rs. 5,000 to 15,000 a tree,” notes M.G. Ravi Kumar, a prominent jackfruit grower here.
Jackfruit came to the mainstream here after the University of Agricultural Sciences-Bangalore (UAS-B) took up the Rural Bio-Resources Complex project funded by the central Department of Biotechnology to reach innovative farm practices and marketing technologies to the farmers.
Under the project, a jackfruit growers’ association was formed to help farmers switch to collective marketing and bargaining power, obviating middlemen.
“We harvested the crop simultaneously and explored marketing avenues in cities like Bangalore. We identified big consumers like Safal and ice-cream companies and sold our produce directly to them. This has fetched us good money. We have realised middlemen had cheated us all these years by buying our produce for a pittance,” said Mr. Ravi Kumar, president of the Tubagere Jackfruit Growers’ Association.
“Last year we sold about 30 tonnes to an ice-cream company at a rate of Rs. 7 to 8 a kg. This year, the same company is ready to buy 35 tonnes at about Rs. 10 a kg,” he said.
Of course, retail sale of the cut fruit at melas being held at various places brings in much more.
“When we reeled under severe drought this time, it was jackfruit that came to our rescue as they are drought-resistant.”
UAS-B Vice-Chancellor K. Narayana Gowda, who headed this five-year project that ended in 2010, pointed out that such cooperation has cut overheads besides giving collective bargaining power to farmers. The total income from jackfruit in these villages had risen from Rs. 6 lakh a year in 2005 — when the project commenced — to about Rs. 25 lakh in 2008 itself.
Moreover, farm women here have been trained to make value-added jackfruit food varieties like juice, pappad, pickles and so on. The self-self groups not only prepare these products but also package them for sale. Dr. Gowda said the next step is export.
UAS-B has been advising farmers here to have at least two jackfruit trees per an acre for those who grow it as a side crop. Interestingly, a majority of the farmers use the income from jackfruits to pay the insurance premium dedicated for the education of their wards.