In a first of its kind initiative in Vidarbha, producer companies, ie profit making companies owned by farmers have come together to organise a Grain Festival in an endeavour to link the customers directly to the producers of what they eat. The first Grain Festival is being held in Amravati from May 18-20, 2013, and will showcase produce from producers of four districts – Amravati, Akola, Yavatmal, and Wardha. These districts are a part of the Vidarbha region and have been identified as distressed farming areas due to the high rate of farmer suicides it witnesses.
In 2008, the Tata Trusts launched Sukhi Baliraja Initiative (SBI) in six districts in the region to alleviate farmer distress by implementing projects on reducing input costs, providing financial services, creating market linkages and diversifying income avenues for the farmer households in the region. Till now, four producer companies have been formed and have a member base of over 7,000 farmers in total. The major objective of these producer companies is to increase the ownership of farmers in the value chain and are running various small and medium enterprises like collective input purchasing, collective marketing of agri-produce, milk procurement and selling, daal processing, turmeric processing, etc.
The Grain Festival is an innovative model conceptualised by the board of directors of the four producer companies, the implementing agency Indian Grameen Services and the Trusts' project team of SBI. Major attractions of the festival are tur dal processed by farmers without any chemicals, wheat, green gram, processed turmeric, and fresh dairy products. The producer companies have been running around the city to maximise the footfall for the event, and hence the dividends for their farmer shareholders. Therefore, the sales from this festival will lead to a dual benefit for the farmers by removing middlemen in agri-marketing and giving them a share from the sales profit. Similar exhibitions will be conducted in other districts in the coming month.