Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Of potatoes and smashed glass

It doesn’t matter that much whether or not Walmart arrives. We already have Reliance and More and Big Bazaar. As a buyer of potatoes and multi-grain atta, it’s the same to me. I’m basically looking at a glass-fronted alternative to the subzi mandi.

Is this good for me? Probably not, given that fresh food is always better than food kept for days in cold storage.

Is it good for the environment? Probably not, given how much paper and plastic packaging is used by big corporations in their packaging of food.

Is this good for farmers? We only have to look carefully at districts where corporations are acquiring foods directly and figure out whether farmers’ lives have changed for the better, particularly small and marginal farmers. Besides, if elimination of middlemen is our chief concern, the best thing to do is to set up farmers markets in every suburb of every town, where farmers are free to come and camp every day, and bring us absolutely fresh, chemical-free food.

So what exactly does the big supermarket give the consumer that the local vendor cannot? Well, toilets for one. I’d much rather shop in a competitive, open-air market but a customer cannot be king in matters of retail if her/his bladder (and dignity) is at stake.

I was covering a protest rally in 2007, in Delhi, when a vegetable vendor called Dulaare Lal complained about how ‘companies’ — foreign or Indian — are treated with respect by the state. They have the benefits of electricity, water and endless space. In contrast, Dulaare Lal didn’t have a license to operate on the roadside.

Dulaare Lal paid Rs50 every day to be allowed to sit at Gol Market.

But he was allowed to sit only between 5pm and 8.30pm. Dulaare Lal had one little bulb hanging overhead. Dulaare Lal knew that customers — the ladies especially — need toilets. He and other vendors had been begging the municipality to build facilities, for they were forced to relieve themselves in the street nearby. But there was no toilet and no running water. When it rained, vegetables rotted because there was no shelter and the municipality wouldn’t permit vendors to have plastic roofing.

Read full piece here

And here's another interesting piece on FDI retail in India from the food inflation and is-it-better-for-farmers' perspective:

"If organised retail is the dampener for inflation then it follows that countries such as the UK, Brazil, Thailand and Malaysia among others where the penetration of organised retail is high should have had minimal or very low rates of inflation. In the US where retail stores account for 83 per cent of the market share, inflation has not been so easy to control. Data from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) for the first quarter of 2011 reported food price inflation in the UK at 5.5 per cent and rising to 6.3 per cent in the third quarter of 2011.
According to a September 13 bulletin put out by the UK Office for National Statistics, the most significant upward contributions to the commodity price index came from food items such as meat, bread and cereals where there was a 7.1 per cent rise and much higher for processed foods. In India meanwhile, inflation is showing a downward spiral with food inflation down to 6.6 per cent from a high of 20 per cent, and Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee predicts that if the trend continues, “we may perhaps have the year-end inflation at 6 per cent-7 per cent.”
Modern retail chains invariably squeeze farmers’ margins and the cartelisation of purchases by the biggest chains has come under scrutiny in the EU and in the US. In the EU, retail chains have become “gatekeepers” controlling the only access that farmers have to consumers (see ‘Abuse of power by EU, US retailers’ p39). The trend in Asia is unlikely to be any different.


W!((!@M said...

nice post !! .. super like

Amit said...

You can buy fresh veg and fruits at reliance... and like mega marts.. too. it seems you overlooked them.

roses said...

I appreciate these comments. visit rosesandgifts dot com.(send gifts,flowers and cakes to India.).

Anonymous said...

Hi Anniezaidi, I am writing to you on behalf of The Viewspaper regarding a major event on Twitter. If interested, please contact us at garimao@theviewspaper.net


Tweets by @anniezaidi