Source: oheraldo.in & http://belgaumnri.blogspot.com/
Goa’s reliance on vegetables and fruits from Belgaum could be under threat and competition has come in from an economic giant. The setting up of a vegetable procuring unit at Belgaum by ‘Reliance Fresh’, a division of Reliance Industries Ltd, to provide vegetables to its growing chain of outlets in Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra may adversely affect the supply of vegetables to Goa in the near future.Farmers in Belgaum are only too happy to offer their produce to Reliance at better rates and with the vegetable supply from Belgaum — predominantly meant for Goa — now likely to be diverted elsewhere, Goans would have to pay much more for the few vegetables that enter the Goan market.Incidentally, though Reliance Fresh intends to set up seven outlets in Goa at ‘cheaper rates’, the supply of vegetables would be too meagre to cater to the entire state. Reliance has recently set up a procuring unit at Halga, about 10 km from here, where vegetables are being purchased directly from farmers. “Vegetables purchased are being sent to Hyderabad and other places,” Suresh D, the unit manager at Halga said.At present, about 10 tonnes of vegetables are being procured by Reliance everyday and sources speculate that the demand would rise sharply with the growing number of retail outlets to be opened in the region. The unit at Halga is strategically based at the hub of the vegetable growing hinterland of Belgaum district, where more than 60% of the farmers in the district are engaged in growing vegetables.Sudhatai Hiremath, Secretary of the Agriculture Produce Market Committee (APMC), the apex body controlling the procurement and sale of vegetables and other farm produce, said Reliance has been issued licences to procure vegetables from farmers and the company has been promptly paying the cess to APMC. Officials disclosed that Reliance plans to open seven outlets in Goa and attempts are being made to supply farm-fresh vegetables from Belgaum at rates cheaper than that offered by the Belgaum vegetable traders.This is because Reliance will buy vegetables directly from farmers, eliminating middlemen in the process. “Our intention is to give justice to the farmers by offering them better rates for their produce,” said Aniruddin of Reliance. According to Umesh Patil — a vegetable wholesaler and member of the Cantonment Wholesale Vegetable Merchants Association — over 100 brokers supply vegetables to Goa and other coastal areas including Karwar, Kumta (Karnataka) and Sindhudurg (Maharashtra).“About 30 tempo loads of vegetables are supplied to Goa everyday and more than 70% of the vegetables from Belgaum are sent to the coastal areas,” said Patil.To a query on the impact of ‘Reliance Fresh’ on the prevailing supply of vegetables to Goa, Patil admitted that while the prices may not increase in the immediate future, the increase of Reliance outlets in the region could spark off a shortage of vegetables en route to Goa.Meanwhile, the farmers in the district are pleased with the new development, as they are being paid a better rate as compared to the brokers.“We do not have to bother about the brokerage and other costs that we earlier used to pay,” said a farmer.