Does anybody seriously know what is biodiversity conference? And, what is this Meeting of Parties to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety? But people in the twin cities sure do know what are genetically modified (GM) crops and of course, organic farming and organic food products. How? Not because of any conference but thanks largely to Aamir Khan’s highly successful 'Satyamev Jayate'.
From start up companies to marketing executives, all those involved in the sale of organic products are a happy lot and are of the unanimous opinion that Satyamev Jayate has fuelled demand for them in a big way. In fact, according to them, the demand for organic products in the city has been increasing by almost 50per cent every year.
Entrepreneur and IIM, Kozhikode graduate RK Chaitanya Verma identified this growing market in Hyderabad three years ago and set up a firm called Organic Express in collaboration with Ishit Saurabh Pilani, a graduate from ISB. What’s the firm’s business: Serving organic meals to IT professionals in major corporate firms in the city and also in Gurgaon. Chaitanya explains, “We procure raw materials from NGOs, well-known organic brands and also from farmers’ groups.
And serve sandwiches, rice items, salads, pastas, fruits, Indian sweets and bakery items. As of now, we have a client base of 8-9 companies in Hyderabad.” He is certain that demand is growing.
GV Ramanjaneyulu, who has been running ‘Sahaja Aharam’ store for the last two years, agrees. “The awareness about the benefits of organic food is much better now than say two years ago. Much credit goes to Aamir Khan’s Satyamev Jayate for discussing the issue in the national media,” he says. However, he believes the time to covert that awareness into actionable awareness will take some time.
“Even though there is a steady increase in the consumption of organic food, people have a misconception that organic food is very expensive. We sell at a price that is only 10 per cent higher than normal brands. The difference is because of the supply chain and middlemen in the process. But through our process, a farmer receives around 60 per cent of what the customer pays unlike the usual 20 per cent in case of regular brands,” explains Ramanjaneyulu, who is also associated with the Centre for Sustainable Agriculture.
He and his organisation have conducted a campaign earlier this year to promote roof top vegetable farming. And, over 1,000 families in the city have signed up for it and now, have their own roof top gardens. “For a family of four, it may cost only about `10,000 to set up a garden spread over 100 sqft with no further investments. It would come to around a year’s bill if calculated,” he points out.
The consumers of organic food are not typically the elite as is generally believed. Raghuvir, marketing manager at the Hyderabad-based Sresta Natural Bio Products Pvt Ltd, says, “The market is small in the city, but there is a steady growth of 50 per cent every year which means middle class is interested.” The organisation set up in 2004 in Hyderabad currently has a base of 12,000 farmers and has presence in 35 cities across the country through retail chain stores. “We offer more than 100 products in grocery range. It may not necessarily be the elite class customers, anyone who can spend about `6,000 a month on groceries, and are aware of the benefits of organic food are our customers,” adds Raghuvir.
Ask the consumers themselves and their opinion is overwhelmingly in favour of organic food products. “It is not just the health factor that drives them to opt for organic food. The taste, flavour and odour altogether makes the difference. It gives the feel of village food. My son, who hated Tur Dal started liking it after we started using organic brands,” says Seetalakshmi, a resident of Begumpet who has been a loyalist to organic food ever since she watched Aamir Khan grilling a pesticide manufacturer in Satyamev Jayate.
However, officials at the horticulture department say full-fledged organic production is not possible as of today. According to the deputy director of Horticulture department, MG Deva Muni Reddy, the market for organic food is increasing and people are also interested. “But practically, it is not possible. In the coming years, it would be the Global (GAP) Good Agricultural Practices certified farming, which means an integration of both chemical and organic farming. Also, in major cities, farmers are turning to the GAP certified farming, which also enables them to export their produce,” the deputy director of Horticulture department explains.