Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Why Reliance FRESH Is Good For India

I don't know what this Frontline article is suppose to accomplish, but if it is to discredit food chain stores like Reliance FRESH, it fails miserably. On the contrary, it has made the case for them. The article presumes farmers are just being exploited by greedy corporations, but farmers seem all to happy selling their produce to Reliance FRESH. Here's why:

Selvamani, a farmer whose family owns 30 acres (one acre is 0.4 hectare) and has been selling both to Reliance and in the auction market at Kozhinjampara, told Frontline: “On an average, we get at least Rs.2 a kg more for every commodity if we give it to Reliance rather than at the wholesale market. At the local market, as elsewhere, we have to pay a 10 per cent commission to agents in addition to the loading and unloading charges. Their weighing machines are almost always inaccurate. This is why a lot of farmers here prefer to sell to Reliance.”
Higher prices! Much more than what the government's Public Distribution System (PDS) will give farmers. Reliance FRESH also offers:
...electronic weighing, on-the-spot cash payment, extension services and, importantly, an assured market for their produce.
What does the government offer? Indifference and lamentation about high food prices; and blaming neo-liberalism as the main culprit seems to be the official preoccupation.

As I see it, the only way to reduce the cost of food, for the short-term, is to keep the cost of production and transportation low. And only efficient, mechanized organizations, combined with economies of scale, can accomplish this: they are mostly agro-businesses and retail chains like Reliance FRESH. And given the soaring cost of food, the Left (as they are the key players in this 'anti-Walt-Martian' drama) seems keen on keeping them high. I guess they hate the poor.