One of the highlights of buying produce in India was the bazaar experience. Vegetables were mostly sold in roadside stalls where, amidst the heat, dust and noise ( a lot of noise!), sellers would call out their wares and skeptical consumers would sniff, poke and scrutinize the produce on offer. Things are changing now with the entry of domestic and foreign corporate retailers who buy produce directly from the farmers to sell in supermarkets.As expected, this affects the growers in many ways: some lose potential customers, others face uncertainty as supermarkets buy what they please but do not enter into contracts with the farmers. The supermarkets prefer to deal with the big farmers so the small farmer; often a woman, as vegetables are mostly grown by the women in the farming family; is forced to the sidelines and unable to profit from the changing economic conditions. All this and more is explored in Sukhpal Singh’s piece in the Economic and Political Weekly. He also emphasizes the need for regulation, an uphill task anywhere in the world, it would seem.
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