Sankar Radhakrishnan

Thiruvananthapuram, Dec. 26 It was in December 2003 that Thanal, a Thiruvananthapuram-based NGO, organised its first organic bazaar in the city.

Since then, the demand for organic products, especially vegetables, has grown so much that over 2 tonnes of organic vegetables are now sold every month through the organic bazaar and a retail outlet, said Mr C. Jayakumar, Director, Thanal.

“Over 1,500 kg of the organic vegetables sold every month are grown in Thiruvananthapuram district itself,” he added with a smile of satisfaction.

Good demand

The demand for organic products comes not only from individual customers, but also from a handful of hotels and some vegetable shops as well. Besides the monthly organic bazaar – held on the second Saturday of every month – Thanal also runs a retail outlet for organic products.

The outlet, located in Thanal’s office, is open on Wednesday and Saturday afternoons, except on second Saturdays. The NGO also occasionally organises a travelling organic bazaar to help create awareness about organic products and organic farming.

What’s also encouraging is that it’s not just consumers but also farmers who have been attracted to the organic bazaar, he said. From three farmers who supplied organic produce for the first organic bazaar in 2003, there are now around 66 farmers who regularly supply fruits and vegetables to the bazaar and the retail outlet, Mr Jayakumar said.

Guarantee

All the farmers are part of a ‘participatory guarantee system’ that guarantees the credibility and integrity of the organic produce sold at the bazaar and the outlet. “We have detailed documentation for each farmer who supplies produce to the bazaar,” he said. This system is now accepted by the Government of India and ensures the quality of organic produce without an external certification scheme, he added.

Organic vegetables such as spinach, brinjal, beans, cucumber and tapioca, and fruits such as banana are among the fast moving products at the bazaar. However, other products such as organic honey, wheat and various kinds of dhal are also sold.

Some organic products, such as wheat and dhal, are sourced from outside Kerala while other products such as organic honey are brought from other parts of Kerala. There is also a proposal to start organic cultivation of rice in Thiruvananthapuram district, Mr Jayakumar said.

Area of concern

An aspect of the organic bazaar that continues to cause some concern is that it draws some financial and administrative support from Thanal.

“We are still debating the way forward and are looking for a structure in which the organic bazaar and the outlet will be able to operate independent of Thanal,” he said. At the same time Thanal is extremely satisfied with the progress of the organic bazaar.

“We have proved it is a workable model,” he added.

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated December 27, 2007)
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