Forty-six-year-old M Namasivayam, a farmer, belonging to Kadambanallur village, does not mind taking the bumpy bike ride for over 25 km, to take his farm produce to Keelveedi village. The distance does not matter as he can now sell his produce without the interference of middlemen, besides getting a good value for his produce.
Namasivayam is one among the 300-odd beneficiaries and members of 22 farmers’ cluster groups in 20 villages in and around the Keelveedi Vegetable Collection Centre. The centre was set up under the Peri-Metro Vegetable Development Programme, a flagship scheme of CM J Jayalalithaa. The centre has come as boon for farmers as it has eliminated middlemen and also empowered the ryots to fix the price for their produce.
“We are happy since the inauguration of the centre in Keelveedi village. Each farmer now gets not less than `2,000. The vegetables are weighed in front of us and we get the money on the spot,” said Namasivayam, a member of Gandhi Collective Farmers’ Group. Hitherto, the farmers have been handing over their produce, particularly vegetables, to the middlemen, who go to their village in the morning hours by lorries. The farmers said, “They (middlemen) fix the price for our produce, sell it and give the money the next day. Moreover, they tell us that the load was at least 10 kg less than the actual weight of the vegetables that we sent,” said A Vijayan, a farmer from Parapperi village, eight km from Keelveedi.
Despite knowing that they were exploited by the middlemen, the farmers had to rely on them for lack of facility to transport the produce to the markets in Chennai. “It is now a thing of past. Now we are independent,” said another farmer.
The centre has been getting between 4.5 and 5 tonnes of vegetables of 11 varieties - pumpkin, bhindi (ladies finger), chilli, ash gourd, ribbed gourd, greens of five varieties, bitter gourd and radish— from the farmers per day. “The farmers from the villages within a radius of 25 km have been bringing their produce here. The vegetable wholesale dealers come to the centre and buy the vegetables directly from the farmers,” said deputy director of Horticulture A Aruputham. The new mini-lorry given to the centre would be utilised to transport vegetables from the farm, he added.