FTB Stories

Hardships faced by a farmer: Not getting right prices for their produce

Amit Bhatt
Amit Bhatt
Nandu Pandey

Nandu Pandey is a progressive farmer from village Gopalpur in District Sitapur, UP. He is the owner of Nandu Pandey farms and started farming seriously in 2002. Prior to this he used to grow wheat, paddy, corn and arhar pulses. In 2002, he was inspired to grow capsicum and tomatoes. He was recently interviewed by Divya S kaimal on the FTB platform of Krishi Jagran.

He started farming on one fifth of an acre and slowly increased the farming area to a bigha. He initially invested about Rs. 7,000 and earned a profit of Rs. 36,000. He was very impressed and alongside capsicum and tomatoes started to grow broccoli, red cabbage, cherry, strawberries, bananas and varieties of potatoes.

They have a contract with PepsiCo to supply potatoes, they tied up in 2005. The potatoes that sell for about Rs 5 in the market, Pepsi pays Rs. 1.5 to Rs. 2 extra for these. Association with such companies is always beneficial. Some farmers who started farming recently joined him and as the prices of potato grew, they sold it in the market. Next year he was betrayed by Pepsi and he learnt the lesson that you must not let greed consume you. You will learn whether farming is a profitable or losing proposition only after some years in the field. There are always ups and downs in farming, for instance in 2020, for the first-time potatoes earned him as much as Rs. 30, which was an exception.   

Capsicums in the farm

Nethouse and Polyhouse

He said he regularly farms tomatoes, multi coloured capsicum and strawberry. In 2015 he started setting up polyhouses and nethouses for safe farming. He grew red and yellow capsicum, seedless cucumber. His first project costed him 68 lakhs and it was the first Shade Net House in UP. He started with tomatoes but suffered losses of about 12 Lakhs, and he was very disappointed. He then started with capsicums which had been his specialty, which with the benefit of Shade Net House was successful. He said these capsicums grown in open by other farmers earn them Rs. 8-10, however his Shade Net House capsicums earned him Rs. 22-24. From an acre he grows 7-8 quintals.

Divya asked him how he sells his produce, to which he replied that his main market has been Lucknow for last 3 years. Earlier he had to go to the market to sell his products, however now he has 3-4 regular customers, who weigh and collect from him. They come with their vehicles and load what they need on to them, and he collects his cash.

Nandu Pandey with harvest ready for delivery

He was asked what makes his capsicums different and better than capsicums of other farmer. He said yes it’s true that there are a number of capsicum farmers, but the difference is that he grows them in Shade Net house. The summer sun changes the colour of the capsicum from green to red, he said while in the Shade Net house, the capsicums retain their original green colour. His capsicums are protected from insects and pests.

Difficulties in Organic farming

He has not exported his products anywhere but enthusiasts from Israel, USA come to see his farm. Some of them offered him to travel with them but his circumstances didn't allow him. The Israelites told him that they have capsicums in 14 colours, while in India these are available in 4-5 colours only. In Israel they eat capsicums raw as part of salad while we cook them with spices in India. He himself feels that it’s better to eat these capsicums as part of salads. 

Divya asked him if he farms organically or he uses chemicals. He replied that he went organic 2 years ago. He continues that fully organic capsicums are not possible, and anyone claiming this is telling lies. You can have organic potato, sugarcane, wheat, paddy but you cannot have organic capsicum, the reason for this being the danger of diseases to these veggies. If you go organic your production will be 10 percent of what you are producing with chemicals. He suggests that your farming with capsicums can be partly organic. 

On the need of preserving his capsicums, he replies that they send these to the mandi immediately after harvesting. There freshness lasts for 4-5 days, hence must be consumed in this period. If you are totally dependent on chemicals then your capsicums will last 4-5 days else partly organically grown will last 10-15 days. He farms over 2 acres with Shade Net House while another two acres are farmed uncovered. His capsicums from open fields have gone before April, whereas those in the Shade Net House will last complete May. His capsicums from open field were sold at Rs. 8-10 and if the markets were open he would be selling his Shade Net House capsicums at Rs. 30-35, while at the moment these are fetching him Rs. 22-24. 

Problems in Marketing

When asked about the problems he has faced and is facing right now, in terms of marketing and selling, he said most farmers are capable of producing well, however their main problem is in marketing. These problems vary for farmers, you may be working on 1 bigha, 2 bigha or 10 acre and your problem in selling your produce will be different. 18 years ago we didn't know, locally around Lucknow, about capsicums and now they are planted over thousands of hectares around Lucknow. Slowly it became popular in market around 2005, 2007, 2008 and gets a good price. However due to lockdown the rates of veggies, including capsicums have gone down.

Regarding his future plans he said right now future in farming is in doubt. He said last 2 years have been very difficult and he expects hardships to continue for next 4-5 years. We talked to him about his contract with Pepsi, he replied that he follows crop rotation and potatoes are grown in their season. He follows multi cropping, hence if he is able to sell only one item it is not beneficial. Ever since lockdown started he has not made money on any veggies apart from potatoes. He is able to sell potatoes at a good rate, but sees no future in other veggies. Potato is a staple food, it can be stored in cold storage, unlike other perishable veggies. Either these perishable items will be consumed or thrown away as wastages. He gives example of water melons which are being sold at Rs. 5-6 while in good times you could sell the "Saraswati" variety for Rs. 15. Selling veggies this cheap is disrespectful and insulting for him. 

Final message and sameness of things

Nandu said a farmer only knows about farming and there is nothing else to do for him. He must focus on his task at hand and he doesn't need to experiment much. If you want to do something new, you must do it properly or there will be losses, so you must go with the flow. Generally there is no planning for farming in India, however the farmers must plan their every activity. Government may import pulses and pay foreigners, while they can tie up with Indian farmers and this money can be diverted towards them. He used to get Rs 8,000-10,000 per quintal of his "Urad" pulse but government has taken everything away from him. Everything has a process, be it animal husbandry or standard farming with crops. Whatever you do it must be done properly.

Finally when asked if he wanted to sell his products online or preferred to keep the things as they are, he replied that e-commerce too involves middlemen or traders. He believes that you can be a farmer or a trader, not both. You can either produce or process. One of the problems with agriculture is fluctuating prices, there is no set MRP. There should be a minimum rate and we should not burden the customers either. Government has fixed the price of potatoes at Rs. 5.5 while it costs Rs. 5 to produce them. Please click here to see the video.

Nandu Pandey

Nandu Pandey

Sitapur, Uttar Pradesh

Nandu Pandey Farm

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