Where does Bengaluru get its vegetables from?

Clad in yellow-and-red, a vegetable seller sits nonchalantly on a chair in the middle of the road. Pic: Deepa Mohan

Valli is a 45-year-old woman who sells vegetables on her cart in Ulsoor. Two to three times a week, she takes a bus from Cox Town where she lives, and makes her way to City Market at about 1.30 pm. With a budget of Rs 4,000 on each visit, she buys vegetables based on the prices. If the prices are up, she buys about two kilos each of assorted vegetables; if they are down, she picks up about five kilos each.

She then flags down an auto to Ulsoor and unloads about 50 kilos of vegetables on to her cart. Her cart is then open for business from 3 pm onwards, until 9 pm. In the mornings, from around 8 am, she goes ‘rounding’, pushing her cart (which her brother Velayutham claims weighs 150 kilos when full) from street to street in the Ulsoor area, going from house to house to sell the vegetables. Once she has managed to sell the entire stock, she makes her way to the market once again. This has been Valli’s life for the past ten years.

Valli makes a profit of Rs 500 to 600 on each cartload. On the day after she has bought the vegetables and the next, she can demand a good price. On the second day however, when the vegetables lose their freshness, she has to reduce prices. When the vegetables start to go bad, she says that there are poor people who will buy them from her. She adds, “I do not waste any of the vegetables. I sell the old vegetables at a low price even if it means that I incur a loss.”

Valli is one of the three vegetables vendors catering to the residents of St Johns Road and Tank Road in Ulsoor. And like Valli, there are thousands of vendors selling vegetables across Bengaluru. One can spot a vegetable vendor on pretty much every other road, ranging from supermarkets to corner shops to cart sellers. Where do these vegetables come from? Where are they grown and how are they sold?

There were days when Bengaluru city used to get its vegetables from K R Puram and other villages surrounding the city. Now the city has grown from 250 sq km to 850+ sq km in area. The population has almost reached a crore, and the demand for vegetables too has gone up multiple times. Bengaluru is the city that consumes the most vegetables in Karnataka, as almost a fifth of the state’s population resides here.

Vegetable supply to the city is managed through multiple channels—HOPCOMS, APMC and other informal markets supply vegetable through farmers’ networks from various cities. Besides, recent changes in the government rules facilitate direct selling of vegetables from farmers, to retailers or consumers.

HOPCOMS: The farmers’ co-operative

A cooperative started in 1959 as the Bangalore Grape Growers’ Marketing and Processing Co-operative Society, by MH Mari Gowda, the then director of Department of Horticulture, it changed its name to Horticultural Producers’ Cooperative Marketing and Processing Society Limited (HOPCOMS) when farmer members of the society started growing vegetables and the operations diversified.

HOPCOMS presently covers Bengaluru Urban, Kolar, Chikkaballapur, Ramnagar and Bengaluru Rural. Everyday over 70 tonnes of vegetable and fruits are supplied to the city through HOPCOMS alone. HOPCOMS has its own shops from where it sells vegetables at a fixed price.

“Tomato comes in abundance from Kolar district. Similarly flat beans (avarekai) is supplied from Chintamani, Srinivaspura and Ramnagar. When it comes to greens, Anekal supplies over 1.5 tonnes everyday,” says Kadire Gowda, Managing Director of HOPCOMS.

With respect to quality control measures taken by HOPCOMS, Gowda says: “Three levels of grading takes place before the vegetables reach customers—farmer grading (best crops are selected by farmers), godown grading (HOPCOMS officials screen the produce) and salesman grading (experts in the field of marketing at various outlets).”

Farmers sell their produce to HOPCOMS and are paid in cash on the same day, if the amount is below Rs 10,000. If the produce amounts to more than Rs 10,000, a crossed cheque is given.

The HOPCOMS outlet at  Jayanagar, 4th Block. Pic: Uma Swamy

Consumers get bills for their purchase when they buy from HOPCOMS. They can also check the price of a particular vegetable for the day by typing HOPCOMS VEG (or HOPCOMS FRUIT for fruits) on your mobile and sending it to 9731979899.

Agriculture Produce Marketing Committee (APMC)

What is APMC?

Earlier farmers used to face payment problems and suffer as their produce used to reach markets through middlemen. In order to get at least 70% of the market price for the farmers’ produce, the State Governments established Agricultural Produce Marketing Committees (APMC) so that farmers could sell their products to commission agents (middlemen) under the supervision of APMC. (Source: The Wall Street Journal and Wikipedia)

K R Market Flower Merchants Association President, G M Diwakar says, “APMC yard is a market area where vegetables and fruits come from all states of the country, whereas Regulated Marketing Committee is the area where vegetables and fruits come from all the cities of the state.

An amendment made to the APMC Act in 2013 has state that no market fee would be levied on flowers, fruits and vegetables, and the marketing committee would collect user charge from buyers of the produce at such rates specified in the bylaws approved by the Director of Agriculture Marketing (Source: The Hindu). As a result, buyers of fruits and vegetables from farmers had to pay 1% commission fee to RMC yards, while farmers did not have to pay anything.

A recent amendment to the APMC Act delisted the fruits and vegetable (perishable commodities) market from the jurisdiction of the act. As a result, now any farmer can sell his vegetables to anyone. Before the amendment, bulk buyers like Safal and Reliance had to pay a fee of 1% to the Regulated Market Yards. This fee is no longer applicable. There is also no limit to the amount of vegetables that can be stored by anyone.

While HOPCOMS gets about 70 tonnes of vegetables, the Regulated Market Committee (RMC) yard in Kalasipalyam, which comes under APMC, gets over 280 tonnes of vegetables, according to Chandrashekar, the supervisor of RMC yard. These are sourced from primary markets in Mandya, Mysore, Ramnagar, Doddaballapur, Chickballapur, Magadi, Hoskote, Sidlaghatta, Aneka, Malur and Kanakpura.

Similarly there are other markets that fall under APMC. Various traders deal with various types of vegetables and food grains, which are auctioned in the APMC yard.

Madivala market and KR Puram market are the other two major markets. Akmal Pasha, Association President of Madivala vegetable market, says: “We have 560 shops in Madivala. The total quantity of vegetables that we get is 70 tonnes. Vegetables come from places like Hoskote, Attibele, Hoskuru, Kolar, Anekal, Malavalli and Kanakpura.”

Similarly, in K R Puram market, Association President, Srinivas Yele says, “Around 90 to 100 tonnes of vegetables come from Hoskote, Malur, Narasapura, Sulibele, Chintamani and Kolar.”

APMC Marketing Association President, Shankarappa explains how it works: “Everyday farmers come and sell their produce to commission agents, middlemen who buy vegetables from producers. The price is decided on the same day depending on the quality and quantity of the produce.” But here the farmers do not pay commission or money to the commission agents. Instead 5% commission from wholesalers and retailers goes to commission agents, out of which 1% is given to RMC.

Both in APMC and RMC, farmers are paid on the same day and the price list is generated depending on the quality and quantity of the produce.

Commercial crops like onion, potato and garlic are directly transported to APMC yard. Farmers in Hoskote grow onions, which is mainly supplied to HOPCOMS. The onion which is cultivated in places like Chitradurga, Bellary and Gadag is supplied to APMC at Yeshwanthpur, from where it is supplied to other Bangalore markets.

Direct sale from farmers

Sreenivas Reddy from Nalavanki Hobli in Srinivasapura Taluk is an example of how this can benefit farmers. He owns ten acres of land where he grows 40 varieties of vegetables. Cattle like sheep, goats, cows and country chickens are raised to cut down on fertiliser expenses. Around two tonnes of vegetables are produced in a month and sold in the markets of Malleswaram, BTM layout and Sadashivnagar. Vegetables like carrot, beetroot, beans and bitter gourd generate good income for the growers.

Due to the lack of a cold storage facility, the produce has to be sold within twenty hours. He says: “We never face the problem of middlemen except the toll fee which is Rs 80 for two-way transportation.”

A young seller arranging vegetables at a weekly santhe near Bannerghatta Biological Park. Pic: Bosky Khanna

It is the same case with Rangamma, who sells vegetables in Malleswaram 13th cross. She lives near Nelamangala where she owns an acre of land. She reaches Malleswaram by train with her seasonal farm produce, that carrots, radishes and tomatoes. She sits among a group of similar farmers, sells her product and goes back again by train. She prefers to be a hawker rather than sitting at the BBMP markets in Malleswaram. The price of the vegetables varies from market to market; freshness however, is guaranteed.

How do supermarkets get their vegetables?

Companies like Namdharis state that they own land where they grow vegetables. Ram Reddy, the Unit Manager at the Namdharis in R T Nagar says, “The company grows vegetables in its own land using the methods of organic farming. When tested, the vegetables hardly have any pesticide residue on it. Some exotic vegetables are grown specially in Ooty.” He says the company also has 200 acres of land in Bidadi.

It is different in other stores like Reliance Fresh, Food World or More. Some of them get their stock of vegetables from HOPCOMS, RMC or APMC yard. Shankarappa says, “There is no rule to restrict bulk buyers like Reliance Fresh, More, Nilgiris or Food World to stick with us to purchase vegetables or fruits. Sometimes they buy it directly from farmers in Devanahalli, Chickballapur and Kolar.”   

Section 26 and 27 of the APMC Act states that it is acceptable to “Set up and promote the public private partnership in the management of agricultural markets.” Section 42 states,  ‘‘Provision made for imposition of single point levy of market fee on the sale of notified agricultural commodities in any market area and discretion provided to the State Government to fix graded levy of market fee on different types of sales.” (Source: Scribd.com)

Why do prices vary?

The price of vegetables varies depending on various factors. Shankarappa explains, “The onion supply from Maharashtra was hit following heavy rains and now the state is dependent on Chitradurga district for the supply,” However, the supply of quality onion from Chitradurga also has been hit, due to excess rainfall and the onion price is expected to go up in the coming days.

In such cases, when the supply does not meet the demand, the prices soar high.

The type of shops owned by the sellers also contribute to the price difference. G M Diwakar, adds, “There are two types of sellers, one inside the market and the other outside the market, the hawkers. Shop owners pay tax, rents and power bills, hence they sell vegetables to customers at higher prices than hawkers do.”

Factors that affect prices:

  • Shortage of certain vegetables in certain seasons.
  • During festival time, the demand for vegetables is more, and therefore there is a rise in prices.
  • In the beginning of winter, vegetables like tomatoes are grown in excess, hence the price falls as they have to be consumed quickly.
  • When farmers sell vegetables directly, the price is relatively lower.
  • Untimely rains cause price rise for some vegetables, especially when the crop suffers.
  • When the vegetable is grown without chemical fertilisers or pesticides, using organic methods, the price is likely to be more, as the effort put in is more.
  • ‘Vegetables sold within 24 hours’

Bengaluru has highest demand for tomato, onion

As per an assessment done by Department of Horticulture, Karnataka, the estimated daily demand for tomatoes is 290 tonnes. For onions, the daily demand is 280 tonnes.

Leafy vegetables and potatoes are the other categories of vegetables that are in high demand. The daily demand for these is 160 and 140 tonnes respectively.

According to the estimate by the Horticulture Department based on consumer survey data, NSSO data and HOPCOMS data, among the vegetables consumed in Bengaluru Urban District, the share of tomato is 15% and that of onion’s, 14%.

Most of the vegetable stock gets sold on the same day it is brought to the market. Gurumurthy, Joint Director, Horticulture Department says: “City gets over 2,000 tonnes of vegetable everyday from different places within the state. The vegetables are sold within 24 hours and the cold storage facilities are limited only to a few supermarkets like Namdharis Fresh, as they export their vegetables to other places too.”

In case the stock of vegetables does not sell in the daytime, it is sold in the evening at cheaper rates as it is perishable. There is no limit to the quantity of vegetables that can be stored by a retail shopper according an amendment made to APMC act recently. The daily purchase of vegetables from APMC yards ranges from five bags to 5,000 bags. 

Where do we get our vegetables from? 

Beans  Tumkur, Kolar, Mulbagal, Devanahalli, Doddaballapura and Chickballapur
Beetroot  Hoskote, Narsapur, Malur, Anekal
Cabbage Hassan (highest quantity), Doddaballapura, Chickballapur, Malur, Mulbagal, Hoskote
Capsicum  Pandavapura, Hoskote, Mandya, Ramnagar
Carrot  Devanahalli and Chickballapur
Cucumber  Mysore, Doddaballapur, Hoskote and Anekal
Flat beans (avarekai)  Chintamani, Srinivaspura, Hoskote, Malur and Mysore
Ladys finger  Mandya, Ramanagar, Devanahalli, Doddaballapura and Chickballapur
Onion  Bellary, Chitradurga, Kortagere and Gadag
Peas (naati batani)  Hoskote, Magadi and Ramanagar
Potato  Hassan, Mysore, Hoskote, Doddaballapur and Chickballapur
Ridge gourd (heerekai)  Magadi, Tavarekere and Huliyurdurga
Tomato  Kolar, Bangarpet and Srinivaspur

 

According to the comprehensive data generated from Horticulture Department through various sources and methods, few vegetables exclusively come from selected places, due to the nature of the land and atmosphere.

Garlic  Chitradurga
Ginger  Chitradurga and Hassan
Green peas  Dharwad
Lime  Chitradurga and Bijapur
Onion  Chitradurga, Dharwad
Potato  Hassan
Raw Banana  Shimoga

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About Rashmi Patil 0 Articles
Rashmi Patil is an intern with Citizen Matters.

7 Comments

  1. Good info on the pricing of HOPCOMS.( it works!I tested it) We hated to go to hopcoms as we knew that they were cheating us,never give a bill.Now we can shop bravely without being cheated.Prices varied with the customer.

  2. *Very* well-written article. I intend to use this in some of my future geography workshops for school children. THIS is the kind of geography children should be learning instead of the muck that is now trotted out as geography ‘education’!

    Kudos to the author, Ms Rashmi Patil.

  3. Iam very much delighted to see the information provided by the respectable authority, and very thankfull to it, expect more and more information about the farmers.

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