Organic farming is gaining popularity among farmers in India. Alongside, consumers are increasingly becoming aware of the benefits of organically grown fruits, vegetables, oil seeds and grains as they are free of harmful chemicals and pesticides.
India has 4.43 million (44.3 lakh) organic farmers, the highest in the world, according to the Economic Survey 2022-2023. Also, organic food is cultivated over 2.6 million hectares of land in India, the fifth largest in the world.
In the last decade, a large number of engineers, MBAs, postgraduates, lawyers and other working professionals have switched to organic farming to produce healthy food and live in harmony with nature. The bonus is the higher-than-market rates that organic products command. However, to reap those rewards, organic farmers need to find markets for their farm produce without relying on traditional mandis (wholesale markets).
Most mandis do not give any premium for organic produce. In such a scenario, it is much better and easier to develop a network of buyers to whom the farmers can supply directly.
Establishing trust and building relationships with consumers is the key to sustaining a market for your organic produce. Here are some ways to explore the market for organic farm produce beyond the mandis:
1. Local Farmers' Markets
Many cities and towns in India host weekly or monthly farmers' markets where local producers can sell their goods directly to consumers. These markets often attract environmentally-conscious consumers who appreciate organic produce and pay a much higher price for the same.
Many farmers like Aakash Thakkar of Karjat, Maharashtra, have built a robust customer base through these markets. This MBA farmer started selling organic fruits and vegetables at Mumbai’s weekly farmers’ markets and began home delivery to customers in 2011. Today, he sources organic fresh produce, groceries and other products from farmers across India and sells them online under The Farmer brand.
2. Community Agriculture Programme
Organic farmers can come together to set up a community where consumers sign up for regular deliveries of fresh produce directly from the farm. This model allows farmers to establish a direct relationship with consumers and receive payments upfront, helping to secure steady revenue.
For example, Kerala's paddy grower Tom Kiron Davis started organic paddy farming on a wasteland in Thrissur in 2015. Now he has set up a collective, Pepereno, that sells the rice from his farm and that from 30 other farmers to buyers across the world. The orders are placed through WhatsApp and the rice is sent from Kerala.
3. Online Marketplaces and own website
Organic farmers can use online platforms and marketplaces to sell organic produce directly to consumers. Websites and apps dedicated to organic and locally sourced products can help you reach a wider audience beyond your local area.
Apart from bigger platforms like Amazon and Flipkart, there are many marketplaces dedicated to organic food like Orgpick, The Farmer etc.
Farmer Mandeep Verma, who grows kiwi organically in Solan, Himachal Pradesh, sells directly from his farm through his website, Swaastik Farms. He supplies from his orchard to customers in Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Chandigarh and other places.
4. Social Media and Digital Marketing
Leverage social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to showcase your farm products, share your farming practices, and engage with potential customers. Building an online presence can help generate interest and attract buyers.
Raman Salaria, who grows organic dragon fruit in Pathankot, Punjab, has two models for selling the chemical-free fruit grown on his Unnat Natural Farm. He supplies directly to customers in nearby cities who place the order through calls, WhatsApp or social media. Whatever remains unsold is then supplied to wholesalers.
5. Collaborate with Restaurants and Cafés
Partnering with local restaurants, cafés, and eateries that use organic ingredients is an effective way of selling your produce without incurring transportation costs. Establishing wholesale agreements with these businesses can provide a steady market for your produce.
Farmer Mukesh Manjoo, who grows organic dates, watermelons and olives (both green and black) on his farm in Pilani, Rajasthan, has tie-ups with some top five-star hotels in north India for supplying the olives.
6. Organic Food Stores and Co-ops
Approaching organic food stores and cooperatives in your area to inquire about selling your products on their shelves is also a good option. Many such establishments are eager to support local farmers and offer a variety of organic foods to their customers.
In Chennai, stores like Vaer Organic and Uzhavu Organic procure fresh fruits, vegetables and other grocery items from organic farmers. You can sell directly to them. Many organic stores buy directly from the farm, saving your cost of transportation.
7. Direct Sales to Institutions
Explore opportunities to sell your organic produce directly to schools, hospitals, corporate cafeterias, and other institutions that prioritize healthy and sustainable food options. You can also participate in regional farm-to-table events, workshops, and food festivals to showcase your products and connect with potential buyers who value organic and locally sourced food.
By exploring these avenues and employing creative marketing strategies, organic farmers can effectively find markets for organic farm produce in India without solely relying on traditional mandis.
Also Read: Seven tips for switching to organic farming