Since its inception 10 years ago, the Sahyadri Farmers Producers Company (FPC) has become India’s largest exporter of grapes with an annual turnover of more than Rs 465 crore. Vilas Shinde, chairman and managing director of the Nashik-based FPC, speaks to The Indian Express about the journey as well as the farm laws that were passed recently.
What is your main takeaway over the past 10 years? What is the main benefit of an FPC?
As an individual, a farmer has little or no chance of negotiating – be it with markets or input dealers. What we need is the power of collective bargaining and this should be done in a professional manner. An FPC, if run right, is the answer. FPCs can help generate collective leadership and help farmers get their rightful place in the scheme of things.
The central government has said it will form 10,000 FPCs. However, as we have seen in Maharashtra, a large number of FPCs that were formed remain on paper and have little or no business. So, how is this plan of the government really helping the FPC movement?
We must first understand that farming is an industry and we should be ready to change our outlook towards seeking government help. FPCs should not always seek government help to develop their business. Instead they should start working on their own and only seek government help to pass through bottlenecks that can come their way. The number 10,000 might look good on paper but if they just remain on paper, what would be their contribution to the economy? Instead we should focus on creation of a professional mindset, which would allow for creation of a new generation of business leaders in the agricultural community.
How do you look at the passage of the three farm laws at the central level? Do you think they will help FPCs take the next step forward?
As I said earlier, what we need is creation of a professional mindset in FPCs. The present laws should be used to create the proper value chain necessary for them to prosper. Farmers are not able to leverage their produce as they do not control the value chain. Through FPCs, they should try to get control over the value chain, which would help them increase their income in the right manner. FPCs should create their value chain and be able to reach the consumer directly. This can be done through right business leadership and technological leverage.
What are the main constraints before FPCs? You have interacted with FPCs across the country so what is your take on the FPC movement in the country?
Capital is the main constraint before FPCs and they should try to raise it by either increasing their membership base or creating a business model that will allow them to raise capital from banks. I am confident that the FPC movement in Maharashtra will reap results over the next few years and we will see many success stories from the state.
FPCs should not try to cannibalize each other’s area of business. Instead they should work on a plan that will help them take on the market as a unified force. In Maharashtra, the cooperative dairies failed to have a common brand, which led to fragmentation and then demise of the movement. FPCs should avoid doing the same.
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