Watermelon Seeds with Expiration Dates

Farmer M is leasing one acre of land. He asked around to find a crop that had good potential revenue and decided to plant watermelon. It was a crop that was coming at the right time. With only 90 days from seed to harvest, if he planted in early March, he expected to see the first crop in the market by May/June 2016. This happens to be the height of Indian summer, a season of peak demand for watermelons.

Watermelon Seeds

Watermelon Seeds

When it was time to buy watermelon seeds, he relied on referrals from his farming neighbors and friends. A farmer in his neighborhood pointed him to a small agro store in Dharapuram, a small town that was a bus ride away. A half day was spent for procuring the seeds. Farmer M purchased 8 pouches of watermelon seeds at INR 360 (USD 5.5) each for a total of INR 2,880 (USD 43) [for reference: “The average farming household’s income from all activities is apparently Rs. 2115 (USD 31) per month” from Farm sizes and incomes in India].

Preparing the field took two days. The fields had to be watered for a few hours to get the seeding patches ready. Fixing the drip irrigation that was blocked in places took a few hours. After all that, it took two people one whole day to plant the one acre. The fields were cared for and watered as recommended. Two weeks passed then three. Finally, the harrowing reality began to sink in. Not even a handful of seeds had germinated. After one month, only a single pouch that seems to have contained good quality watermelon seeds showed signs of life. It came to light, but only on very close inspection, that the expiration date on the pouches have been tampered with. What is worse, the window of time to plant watermelon to get peak season pricing had already closed by then.

Seed Packet Tampering

Seed Packet Tampering

Opportunity for Krishi Janani

Aggregating farmers’ purchasing power to buy farm inputs at bulk discounts is one component of our buying groups. Utilizing the network effect to ensure product quality and after-sale service are equally critical components of Krishi Janani’s value proposition. In this case, it is hard to say which actor in the multi-stakeholder supply chain may have tampered with the package that contained the seeds. However, farmers’ losses aggregate and impacts the entire chain.

Manufacturers with a long-term vision know that their success is intricately intertwined with the farmers’ prosperity. They have vested interest in ensuring that the customer/farmer at the end of the chain is not cheated or exploited.

Krishi Janani’s buying groups can serve as the bridge that connects, negotiates, and collaborates with the farmers and manufacturers. It is the middle tier that cares about the survival and health of the entire value chain, starting with the farmer. We want to ensure a true win-win proposition for all. So, another challenge/opportunity is ready for Krishi Janani to tackle: How can we incorporate a seed supply chain into our buying clubs?

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