Mumbai: The impact of Coronavirus and its subsequent lockdown is perceived by many businesses as a disaster. But it looks like state-run Maharashtra Cooperative Development Corporation (MCDC) is able to make the best of the opportunity. It is facilitating the direct movement of horticulture crops from farmer producer companies (FPCs) to housing societies.
Speaking to The Free Press Journal, Milind Akre, Managing Director, MCDC, said, “We have around 117 farmer producer companies registered with us. Of that, 45 FPCs have used our platform to sell around 100 tonnes of horticulture crops. Grains are not being sold through our platform but vegetables and fruits are.” He revealed that over 5,000 housing societies spread across Mumbai, Thane and Pune have been buying supplies directly from farmers (via FPCs).
At present, MCDC is taking bulk orders (more than 30 flat owners per society) considering the present constraints from suppliers' end. One can order at http://bit.ly/2WVY6pg.
It was not easy, Akre reiterated. “Initially, FPCs were reluctant. For the first few days, we had to convince them to supply but now they have seen the demand. So, they are becoming comfortable with this.”
Due to lockdown, MCDC has witnessed a rise in demand for horticulture crops. “For the last few days, the demand was low. But throughout the lockdown, we have seen a spike in demand. We hope that demand continues to grow,” Akre added. With the hope that lockdown will be lifted on May 3, there has been a slowdown in demand.
MCDC is looking at ways and means to grow even after the pandemic ends. The Agricultural Produce Marketing Committee (APMC) that regulates buying and selling of farm produce are closed due to the Coronavirus. Until that opens, it will be an opportunity for institutions like MCDC. However, MCDC is optimistic that post Coronavirus it will be able to continue growing and supporting farmers. “We are planning to have more coop shops across 10 important cities which have more than one million population.” At present, MCDC has around 125 coop shops. These shops function in housing societies which are owned either by housing societies or by self-help groups, FPCs and others.
MCDC-registered FPCs are directly selling their produce to housing societies even though it does not have coop shops in their vicinity. “Due to the lockdown, we were able to test a lot of pilot projects as well. We have received a huge response from those and that has encouraged us to run more such coop shops.”
MCDC, which has its very own FMCG brand called Maha Farms, is incorporated as an NBFC. Despite being classified as NFBC, MCDC has now gone beyond its mandate of financing, to areas such as advising, skilling, and supporting agro-based enterprises in forward and backward linkages in marketing and financial areas.