Food

All is fair in trade

Tomy Mathew, left, of Fair Trade Alliance Kerala with a farmer.   | Photo Credit: By Special Arrangement

Tomy Mathew grew up as part of a farming family in Wayanad and he still pursues farming passionately. On three acres of land he grows cashew, rubber, pepper and coconuts. Like any famer in the State, Tomy went through tough times. But he kept his passion alive and set up Elements Homestead Products Pvt. Ltd. an organic store. “The first store in Kozhikode was started in 1999. We now have another one here. There was, and still is, a latent demand for organic products and Elements was a business initiative to help bridge the physical and emotional distance between the famer/producer and the conscious consumer. We were taking our baby steps with around 40-60 farmers and 300-odd customers,” says Tomy.

‘Elements’ is all set to enter the domestic market by launching their products in Kochi on June 12 at Café Papaya and gradually move on to other towns.

The agrarian crisis in the State that hit farmers heavily in places like Wayanad was an eye-opener for Tomy. “We were cosily ensconced in our own world when this crisis hit farmers. We decided to address the mainstream issues and get to the root of the problem. The plunge in commodity prices was the main cause. We thought of ways to address it. That’s how we thought of a fair market where the famer gets a higher price. Organic products were not priority here. It is in this backdrop that several farmer leaders got together at our store to discuss the possibility of securing a fair price for farm products, especially cash crops. This led to the founding of Fair Trade Alliance Kerala (FTAK), a democratically constituted farmer body of the hill tract farmers to further the agenda of trade justice in international commodity commerce.”

Farmers were organised and now FTAK has a membership of over 4,500 , mostly from the districts of Kannur, Wayanad and Kasaragod. They grow coffee, cashew nuts, coconuts and a variety of tropical spices.

“Fair Trade is popular in the West. The core of this concept is the assurance of a fair price, based on the cost of sustainably producing the crop. We have been able to find a growing global market for our organic range that includes coconut oil, virgin coconut oil, pepper, cashew and coffee. Europe and the US are our primary export destinations. We have set up a state-of-the-art production facility in Kannur district to manufacture organic coconut oil as well as organic virgin coconut oil with stringent quality monitoring ensured at every stage of production. We procure coffee, cashew, and spices from organic farms, we have sub-contracted processing centres in Karnataka, Mahe and Kasaragod.”

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Printable version | May 14, 2021 1:52:39 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/Food/all-is-fair-in-trade/article6104426.ece

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