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Urban consumer bias

The urban consumer does not appreciate the risks Indian agriculturists go through. Farmers have to contend with uncertain rains and weather conditions, and animal rearers have to face risk like a sudden eruption of disease and lack of fodder due to drought. There are other unforeseen situations apart from exploitation by the middlemen and lack of post-harvest infrastructure.

Urban consumer bias
Urban consumers with decent salaries are agitated whenever the price of agricultural and associated commodities rise by one or two rupees. In such situations, all of us want the government to intervene immediately. But after working for farmers and animal rearers, I've realised that the urban consumer and the media are unable to see the complete picture, and are insensitive to the farmer's plight.

Many urban consumers ask why should the farmers or animal rearers be paid more for their produce than the cost of inputs plus additional money for their basic needs and living? To elaborate the point, let's take the case of a dairy farmer. Presuming the farmer has three to four hybrid exotic cows. Without taking the readers into the details of the economics of farming or animal rearing, the earnings of the poor farmer would be as follows: his gross revenue would be around Rs.9,500/- to Rs.10,000/- per cow per month (PCPM) of which Rs.6,500/- to Rs.7,000/- is the expenditure PCPM of feed, fodder, health care, etc. It means that PCPM the farmer's net revenue is only Rs.3,000/- to Rs.3,500/-. Presuming three animals produce milk then his net income is around Rs.10,000/- per month. This income is not the farmer's net revenue because this includes the labour cost borne by himself and his family members also. If you take out the labour cost of minimum two persons at the rate of Rs.3,000/- each, a total of Rs.6,000/- then what remains with the farmer is net income Rs.4,000/- for all the efforts of the family to earn their livelihood through animal husbandry.


It means that PCPM the farmer's net revenue is only Rs.3,000/- to Rs.3,500/-. Presuming three animals produce milk then his net income is around Rs.10,000/- per month. This income is not the farmer's net revenue because this includes the labour cost borne by himself and his family members also. If you take out the labour cost of minimum two persons at the rate of Rs.3,000/- each, a total of Rs.6,000/- then what remains with the farmer is net income Rs.4,000/- for all the efforts of the family to earn their livelihood through animal husbandry.

If the farmer decides to go for wage employment in government projects under MGNREGA then he, his wife and adult children would earn Rs.3000/- per person per month for working only 8 hours a day for 26 days. It ensures the family the total earnings of Rs.9,000/- to Rs.12,000/- from their wages alone and that too without any input cost and risk involved. This is a far-reaching issue for the nation as the poor economics of the agriculture production systems would push the farmers to non-agricultural activities. This scenario would be highly undesirable for the agriculture sector and ultimately for the country as it would adversely affect the food security program and, thereby, the food sovereignty of the Nation.

If the dairy cooperatives decide to pay the farmers even one rupee more for his produce, then there is great hue and cry by everybody especially the urban middle class which is amplified by the media. So is in the case of eggs or any such agro and allied products.

The urban consumer need not make an issue for a genuine and desirable increase in price for the agriculturists' produce. Why do we expect the farmer to earn a maximum of only 10-15 per cent on his produce? Why should the farmer account only for his food and bare minimum basics as earnings from his vocation? Don't the farmers deserve good health, good education for his children, decent housing, healthy living and future for his family? If urban consumers attempt to answer these fundamental questions, then only the society would do real justice to the farming community. They deserve justice, empathy, and not sympathy.

Now let's compare how much the same urban consumer pays to a multinational corporation for their potato fries. While standing in long queues, urbanites are happy to pay a minimum of Rs.1,500 a kg for potato fries but are unwilling to pay only a meagre Rs.15/- for a kg of raw potato. The potato fries cost the MNC food chain not more than Rs.150/- a kg, but we are happy to shell out Rs.1,500/- a kg for the same without a murmur. We pay up rather gladly and relish the junk food in the urban environs. To the MNCs, we are happy to pay 1,000 to 1,500 times as profits for their products, but we get jitters in paying the poor farmers a rupee extra for their produce, which he and his entire family work upon for one full crop cycle of 4 to 5 months. Further, when these MNCs offer the consumer a combo meal at a little-discounted price, the urban consumer feels jubilant to get the best bargain.

The potato fries cost the MNC food chain not more than Rs.150/- a kg, but we are happy to shell out Rs.1,500/- a kg for the same without a murmur. We pay up rather gladly and relish the junk food in the urban environs. To the MNCs, we are happy to pay 1,000 to 1,500 times as profits for their products, but we get jitters in paying the poor farmers a rupee extra for their produce, which he and his entire family work upon for one full crop cycle of 4 to 5 months. Further, when these MNCs offer the consumer a combo meal at a little-discounted price, the urban consumer feels jubilant to get the best bargain.

There is a bias in urban consumers and, therefore, the price discrimination against agricultural or animal products. The urbanites, on the one hand, desires that the farmers provide agro produce at a throwaway price but on the contrary want their salaries/wages to be linked to all types of indexes. Why are the urban consumers not ready to pay to the farmers or the animal rearers for their hard earned and due remuneration for their produce?
This mindset is very unfortunate. The urban consumer does not appreciate the risk, which the Indian farmers or animal rearers go through. Farmers have to contend with uncertain rains and weather conditions, and the animal rearers have to face risk like a sudden eruption of disease and lack of fodder due to drought. There are other unforeseen situations apart from the exploitation by the middlemen, lack of post-harvest infrastructure.

It's high time that instead of sympathising with the farmers and animal rearers the urban consumers appreciate the value of their produce and empathise with their hard working conditions. It is an endeavour in which not only the farmer or animal rearers are involved, but their entire family works the entire year round. They are wholly dependent on the little remunerations from their agro produce for their livelihood, which cannot be restricted to only their food requirement but also for their health, decent housing, education, clothing, and planning for the future of their family. In the ultimate analysis, the solution lies in consumers resolving to pay a remunerative price to the farming community for their produce so as to ensure adequate and quality food for all, which is a sine qua non for the healthy survival of any nation.
Sanjay Bhoosreddy

Sanjay Bhoosreddy

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