Friday, April 11, 2014

Pilot Effort for Fresh Mango



You may recollect earlier this year, we were looking for farms to procure mangoes from in a bid to establish marketing channels. The rationale behind this was to establish reliable, robust and hopefully loyal customer base for next year when we expect to harvest our first large crop. 

The exercise was rich in experience with a lot of insights in the entire supply chain from farm to fork. Apart from the good experience, the entire process was very time consuming, which involved co-ordination with farmers, logistics, interfacing with potential clients, direct retailing etc. As a result, activity on the blog from our end was fairly limited in the last couple of months. Some of our loyal followers even called / mailed us due to drop in blog postings, we appreciate your concern.

We transacted about a total of 10 tons of Banganpalli and Imampasand this season. A total of 15 farms were visited, of which we zeroed down on 3 farms in TN area. Our initial plan was to deal with farm owners directly in order to reduce procurement costs. Unfortunately, in most of the farms, the owner was not in a position to transact directly with the buyer. Farms were contracted out to contractors who had a good network in the mandis. In essence, they maintained the crop during the season and then sold the produce directly themselves or through their affiliates. So when we bought the crop from them, it was at par with the mandi rates. Of course, we demanded selective harvesting and rejected fruits with blemishes.

Generally, contractors are well staffed and harvesting, sapping , washing, drying and packing 2 tons of fruits per day is feasible in a day. This may not be the case when procuring directly from the farmers as they may not be aware of the harvesting protocols. When you have a couple of tons of produce in your warehouse, daily inspection for rotten/overripe fruits is a must. It is labor intensive but important to reduce additional wastages. Green fruits with higher metabolic rate will ripen naturally, so its essential to grade them in time.

Fruits to be graded and washed

Washing in process  

We used Etherel to ripen our fruits. Unlike calcium carbide, it is considered safe and is in line with international standards. The down side of the former is that it takes more time. Nonetheless, we were willing to wait longer than compromise on the fruit quality. After the initial experiments, we concluded that fruits at 1ml/L concentration, when dipped for 3 minutes gave the best result and ripened in 3-4 days. The concentration was way off from the “recommended” dosage from “experts” online and in some of our horticulture institutes. Lesson learnt – do the trials yourself and ascertain what works for your crop.

Always pack green fruits in gift boxes because you do not know how long will the customer keep it in his possession before gifting it out. We packed at 80% ripeness, assuming that they will be consumed in a day or two. On the contrary, the customer kept it for 5 days in a locked room of Chennai heat. When he opened the box, it was not pleasing to the eyes.

Drying and packing 

All set to be loaded. 


Direct retailing is not easy. It is time consuming and you need a team to support the logistics and operations. We did some retailing in an IT park in Chennai and the experience was fairly good. One gets to interact with customers and also experience some strange incidents.There was one person who wanted to get a bill because he wanted to “bill” the expense to his IT contractor. There was another person who came rambling the next day, with an upset stomach, after consuming 3 kgs of mangoes in the entire course of day. Unfortunately, we did not have a remedy for him!

For the most part, many buyers do not have an idea on how to choose a good mango. Most picked up fruits that were attractive looking rather than right maturity for consumption. Sometimes, the novices would be accompanied by their “expert” friends who would view and smell every other fruit with a discerning eye, but eventually pick a fruit that would not do justice to their expertise. Once I told a person to pick a fruit that should have been well ripened but had some blemishes on the skin. He replied that he does not feel “satisfied” if he purchases fruits with light blemishes.  
You will also come across people who are determined to buy fruits accurate to the third decimal point. They will try all the permutation and combinations to get to that elusive 1 Kg mark. 

Overall, the entire exercise was successful, having established good supplier and customer base. We may repeat it next year if there is a need to procure more mangoes next year. If you have a farm within 200 km from Chennai, do drop us a mail at info@saverafarms.com .

5 comments:

  1. Excellent stuff. You will face challenges till both ends of the chain, producer and consumer, are educated. Any details on logistics and operation would be of great help.

    All the best.

    ReplyDelete
  2. hi, could you share with us what farm gate prices the farmers got for different varieties of mangoes

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Imampasand was procured at Rs 50-55 per kg while Banganpalli was procured at Rs 18-25 per kg.

      Delete
    2. The technique of marketing fruits like mango in our country has to be learned from traders. Pack the fruits in visible trays, could use PET. Decorate the pack.
      Please do not use Etherel, use Ethylene gas, this is the international way, since the gas is produced naturally by the fruit. hold the fruit at 18 deg. C in an ethylene chamber for 4 days, there are several in Theni district, could be in other places too. Use Calcium Hypochlorate for final wash and rinse. Please have a wash stand built since contamination is a very big issue. Next year try to get prices close to Rs.250/- per Kg.

      Delete
  3. hi i tried to contact u over mail but mail returned pl help me to get u

    ReplyDelete