Delhi

From farm to fork: How veggies reach Delhiites from neighbouring villages

Food for thought: Farmers collect fresh vegetables at farms in outer Delhi’s Bakhtawarpur.

Food for thought: Farmers collect fresh vegetables at farms in outer Delhi’s Bakhtawarpur.   | Photo Credit: SHIV KUMAR PUSHPAKAR

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Hundreds of farmers begin their day at the crack of dawn to ensure the best produce reaches the kitchens of Delhiites through the horticulture brand of a dairy major. The Hindu takes a field trip to Bakhtawarpur in outer Delhi

Under the scorching sun, six migrant labourers from Bihar prepare the field for harvest in outer Delhi’s Bakhtawarpur. The men work at a hurried pace to meet the target set by Safal, the horticulture brand of Mother Dairy that caters to the Capital’s demand for fresh vegetables.

“We usually start our day around 5 a.m. and work till late evening. I started working on this particular farm around 10-15 days ago. Before this, I worked on a different farm. This is our usual pattern of work — we rotate between farms,” said Vikas Mandal, a daily wage labourer from Bihar’s Samastipur district.

400 outlets

Like the six men, there are hundreds of farmers toiling in the fields in the outskirts of Delhi. Over 8,000 farmers across 16 States cater to the demands of the over 400 Safal outlets in the Capital.

For some of the farmers in Bakhtawarpur, the association with Mother Dairy dates back nearly three decades.

 

“I have been a part of the project [between Mother Dairy and the farmers] since its inception. With Mother Dairy entering the market, we have gained immensely because we are more aware and educated about safe agricultural practices. We now know which pesticides to use and which ones to avoid,” said 63-year-old farmer Dharampal Sisodia.

Dharampal is one of the founding members of the Bakhtawarpur Fruits and Vegetable Growers’ Association. Nearly 150 farmers are affiliated to the association and these farmers supply their produce “exclusively” to Safal.

Food for thought: Farmers collect fresh vegetables at farms in outer Delhi’s Bakhtawarpur.

Food for thought: Farmers collect fresh vegetables at farms in outer Delhi’s Bakhtawarpur.   | Photo Credit: SHIV KUMAR PUSHPAKAR

 

Due to its association with Mother Dairy, farming in Bakhtawarpur village has gradually changed over the last 30 years. Gone are the days when farmers simply grew wheat and rice to sell in wholesale markets. ‘New age’ farmers are cropping up, who have started experimenting with various types of crop.

“My forefathers were only involved in growing wheat and rice. However, we were introduced to newer modes of farming once we got associated with Mother Dairy. I now grow close to 20 different crops in a year. What started as wheat and rice farming, has now moved onto broccoli, baby corn, sweet corn, spinach and more,” said Kunal Gehlot, a second-generation farmer.

Elite consumers

“We hardly experimented earlier as there were certain vegetables that never got sold in the wholesale market due to low demand. This was because demands of premium hotels and daily households vary. With Mother Dairy entering into the scene, it has become easier for us to cater to elite consumers too. There are times when we take the initiative and ask the company if there is any special requirement that we can cater to,” said Kunal.

From farm to fork: How veggies reach Delhiites from neighbouring villages
 

A Safal official at the Bakhtawarpur site, which specialises in leafy vegetables, said, “We have monthly and daily meetings, in which we tell farmers about our demand for a particular vegetable. Accordingly, they come in the next morning and deliver the required amount.”

“We procure fruits and vegetables from over 140 centres across 16 States. All the produce is brought to the Central Distribution Facility [CDF] in Mangolpuri. The produce is sorted at the facility and then despatched to outlets across the Capital,” said a senior Safal official.

The CDF is a giant complex spread across 22 acres. Produce from farms across the country, including vegetables from Bakhtawarpur, are processed here. The produce passes through at least three quality control checks before being despatched to the outlets, said an official. Safal’s CDF handles around 300 metric tonnes of fresh fruits and vegetables daily.

Quality checking

The produce needs to reach the local centre by 10 a.m. for the first level of sorting. By 12, the last truck leaves from the local centre for the Mangolpuri centre, the only Delhi-based centre for Safal.

“Our quality checking process is rigorous. Though basic sorting takes place before the produce is brought to us, we ensure it is sorted further at the CDF. Vegetables and fruits that are rejected are either sent back to traders or to the wholesale markets if farmers want and we give respective farmers their remuneration,” the official said. As the last truck leaves the Mangolpuri centre for Safal outlets at 5 a.m., Bakhtawarpur village farmers get ready for the next cycle to ensure the best produce reaches the kitchens of Delhiites on time

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Printable version | Dec 13, 2019 3:23:34 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Delhi/from-farm-to-fork/article24248919.ece

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