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Unity Reaps Good Harvest

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The naturally sourced products of Elements Homestead have hit the shelves in the Kochi region and will complete its Kerala market penetration of 2,000 plus outlets by the Onam season in Kerala. Managing director is confident that market response will be positive

Ktozhikode-based Elements Homestead, which until now marked its presence in the domestic market through it signature organic outlets in Kozhikode, is embarking on another mission – to mainstream organic products across the Kerala and tap their enormous market. Elements, an initiative with a self given mandate to bridge not just the physical but also the emotional distance between the farmer and the consumer, in association with has been exporting various products to Europe, the US, Japan, Australia and Hong Kong for the last eight years.

Speaking to Progressive Grocer, Tomy Mathew, said that organic segment is an untapped market in Kerala. “With an array of organic products, sound distribution network, and our quality consciousness gained from the very demanding European and US markets, we are confident that market response will be positive. The crop diversity in a small holder Kerala homestead farm is amazing. Organic farming is best suited to tap the inherent potential of this bountiful diversity.”

Mathew,  who hails from a farming family in Wayanad, knows farming realities of Kerala like the palm of his hand. His passion paved the way for the two signature organic stores that were catering to a niche market, and now to a mass base of farmers and the market at large.

The company registered a turnover of Rs 35 crore from the overseas operations in the last fiscal.

“At present, the export market fetches the most significant portion of our revenue earnings –  almost 90 percent. We hope this will, in the course of the next two years, reach a 50:50 balance, and at the same time increase the turnover by 100 percent, which is currently Rs 350 million,” Mathew said.

Thrust on retail

The company launched virgin coconut oil, coconut oil, cashewnut and filter coffee powder on 12th June in Kochi. “In the first phase, the products, distributed in partnership with Local Economic Development Society (LEDS), will be available in Kochi, Alappuzha and Thrissur districts. By the Onam season, they will be available in 2,000 or more retail outlets across Kerala,” informed Mathew.

A ceremony marking the product launch was attended by , CEO Swissnex India and Consul-General Designate of Switzerland; Dr. T K Jose IAS, Chairman, Coconut Development Board; Thomas Kalappura, Chair, Fair Trade Alliance Kerala; and Anup G. Nair, CEO, LEDS.

According to Mathew, quality at Elements brooks no compromise, right down to the packaging of the oil in glass bottles to paper canisters for cashew and coffee. The cashew is roasted oil free, the coffee retains its aroma, and the coconut oils are of a transparent hue. The coconut  and virgin coconut oils will be available in 750 ml bottles, while cashewnuts and coffee powder  in 150 gm and 100 gm packs, respectively.

“One way to look at these products is as premium priced,” concedes Mathew. “We would like to believe they are fair priced. The farmer is at the heart of our supply chain, and a fair return to him is paramount. Against a market price of Rs 65 per kg of raw cashewnuts, FTAK farmers receive Rs 95- Additionally; FTAK also got Rs 2 per kg as a social premium, which is being used for community welfare and sustainable activities. “These are organic premium products that are naturally abundant with nutritional value and are free of pesticides and chemicals.”

Other Elements products include black pepper, white pepper, cardamom, turmeric, dry ginger, food preserves, tea, wild honey, rock honey, whole sugar, rice (indigenous, aromatic and medicinal varieties), wheat, lentils, pulses and vegetables.

“As soon as spanning out in the Kerala market is complete, we will be in the Indian metros, starting with Bangalore, further on to the Southern markets of Chennai and Hyderabad, before we tackle Mumbai, Pune, Delhi, etc,” informs Mathew.

FTAK: Beacon of hope

FTAK, which was formed at the peak of the agrarian crisis in Kerala, braved crop failures, plummeting commodity prices, loan sharks, drought, floods, landslides, pests and pesticides, is today a beacon of hope to the hill tract farmers of Kerala. The association pays fair price for its members to produce and promote organic cultivation of spices, coconuts, coffee, cocoa, and cashew. With the launch of new products, FTAK is expecting to increase the number of members from the current 4,500 to 10,000, and raise the total area of land under organic farming to 30,000 acres.

“Homestead farmers with small holdings ranging from 2 acres to 5 acres were farming spices, rice, coconut palm, coffee, cocoa, and a host of food crops. Having managed to secure a fair deal in the international commodity markets, FTAK turned its attention to sustainable farming practices, and is today the largest collective of organic farmers in Kerala,” informs Mathew who is also the promoter of the association.