This post is about lemons. And not just any lemons, great quality juicy ones the size of a billiard ball. A dozen of which are enough to fill a 200ml bottle. My farm hand, whom we affectionately call Mama, got some for me from his village.
But Mama doesn’t sell these lemons. Nor does anyone else in their village. So what do they do with them? They throw them away. That’s right. It isn’t worth their while to try and sell even these excellent quality lemons.
This is why: they sell at just one rupee each. Mama has eight trees that would produce a couple of hundred lemons. These would sell at just two hundred rupees, not even enough to cover transportation cost for these marginal farmers. They throw away the cabbage they can’t eat too, for the same reason: not worth their while to sell.
But the same lemons sell for as much as Rs.150/kg in summer, as temperatures start soaring.
So farmers can potentially make ten times more than what they do on lemons, provided:
a) they have the means to make small quantities reach a target audience in cities
b) they can store their lemons for a few months in cold storage and sell them when rates start shooting upwards.
The potential game changers therefore can be online direct selling, and cold storage facility development. Electricity is no longer a serious concern in most villages and deep freezers don’t really consume much power. If efforts are made to develop cold storage facility at village level, things can turn around for farmers.
With the new farm laws kicking into effect, the development of cold storage facilities and contract farming can make it viable for smaller farmers to collectively sell their produce to corporate buyers and make decent returns. Hopefully, in the next few years, Mama will no longer have to throw away his lemons.