Visitors to Dharmapuri, one of Tamil Nadu’s most backward districts, are unlikely to see the brighter side of it.
The dry region, where caste is deeply entrenched and Naxals on and off nurture hopes of a regrouping, is the most unlikely place to see farmers boasting of their business connections in Europe or South East Asia.
But a silent revolution, though on a small scale, is happening in the western district with farmers raking in moolah by exporting their agricultural produce to London and Singapore.
The transformation has materialised owing to the untiring efforts of the farmers and the valuable tips given by the State Agriculture Department. Samikannu of Molayanoor, who cultivates brinjal and drumstick on a two-acre land, says he was lured into export business after seeing middlemen make money after buying the produce of his hard work at a cheap price and then selling those off at higher prices in bigger markets to which he had never harboured the dreams of reaching.
“I came in contact with the Agricultural Marketing and Agriculture Business Departments. The officials helped me sign a MoU with a London-based importer to whom I sell my brinjals and drumsticks now,” he says.
“As a farmer, I had my core skills at my disposal and knew how to harvest a higher yield. But marketing skills were alien to me due to which I incurred losses at the onset. But I never imagined that with the guidance of the Agriculture Department I will be exporting my farm produce to London. My next consignment is all set to be shipped to that place,” says an excited Samikannu.
Like him, another farmer Mathi of Bulluhalli is exporting brinjal, tomato and mangoes to Singapore.
“I formed a network of 10 farmers from Marandhalli, Nallampatti, Samanoor, Pilikarai and Thomanahalli and now we jointly undertake the export operations. Every week, we are exporting a consignment of five tonnes of brinjal, 1.5 tonnes of mangoes and 0.5 tonnes of tomatoes to Singapore,” he says adding “we are getting a nice price.”
Mathi says the local Deputy Director of Agriculture (Agriculture Business) E Selvam has been a guiding force behind the farmers for their success.
T Thomas, Agriculture Officer (Agriculture Business) says: “Farmers usually tend to think that exporting their produce to foreign countries is a difficult proposition. But in reality it is a simple process.
“They have to just adhere to certain specifications for successfully exporting their farm products. In Dharmapuri, we are always willing to provide information tips to the farmers who wish to get into export business.”
Thomas adds that if farmers cultivate organic vegetables and fruits, it will fetch them an even higher price abroad because people there preferred natural yields.