Friday, June 11, 2010

Travails of marketing your own produce to those who buy from a wholesaler

Sometime ago I reported in my blog about my losing the account at the Royal Colombo Golf Club, due to them not willing to accept some of my King Coconuts as they did not conform to a minimum size. The farm has been supplying the single estate King Coconuts to the club for a number of years as my father a member of the club, had been asked to supply them during the period he was actively playing.

Recently I was approached again by the Club to supply them with King Coconuts, and I duly arrived this morning with the order of 200. (uneconomical really to supply such a small quantity on a special journey from the farm, but due to the prevailing rains demand from the club is also low so I was willing in the interests of a relationship to supply this small quantity, despite having told the person who contacted me regarding a renewed order that I need a minimum order of 250)

The new rules set in motion by the Club Captain and the committee running the club is for a chef from the kitchen to check the quality control upon delivery, and this chap said that he would be hauled over the coals by his superiors for ordering some of the nuts owing to their size. The same issue I fell out with back then!!!
I had to tell them firmly that they choose between single estate Thambili and those they can get a supplier in Colombo to deliver, bought wholesale from the Pettah market where they choose the bunches they deliver according to size, not knowing from where or date of plucking. I was able to pluck nuts to order, as I have to cut according to a row of trees where in some sections the nuts are smaller than others, and vary in size from tree to tree. It is also a fact that sometimes smaller nuts have more King Coconut water than the larger nuts, and so size bears no relationship to quality and volume. As I only plucked the nuts to fill the club order, either I sell it to them or just throw it away, as I do not have the time to go at short notice to find buyers for the balance, especially on a rainy and cloudy day like today.

While the chef is just doing his job, frightened of the bosses, they have either to make an exception to their size rule if they want my Thambili, knowing it is plucked the previous day just for them or buy from a trader who sells other people’s produce. It is their choice as it is beyond my control to conform to their specifications. They decided to accept the order today but that may be the first and last I deliver to this club!!! Watch this space for updates to the latest saga of the farmer and his produce dealing with systems and procedures that are not compatible with his method and means of supply. I pluck fresh coconuts to my home delivery customers in the same way as the sizes vary from tree to tree.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Eventful few days in grappling with the new reality of drought amidst plenty


It is interesting to note that while there was rain and floods in the Western Province in Sri Lanka, and I was called by friends overseas wondering if my Pokuna was flooded, that we have not had a drop of rain in ages in Minneriya, except for one day when it rained island wide. So when people are drying out from wet conditions, I was having a battle to get a few drops of water into my fields, by trying all means to damn the water flows and send some water my way.

It is vital that the fields get enough water to allow the plants to grow and prevent the weeds from getting hold of the dry conditions to flourish. We have the semi annual discussion on what types of herbicide based on the most likely weeds that can strangle the rice plants. No one questions the part played by the big multinational chemical companies, whose agents the local companies sell a whole host of products, which cost the farmer more than the cost of his annual fertilizer, just to prevent weeds from making a start on the fields. Often even this attempt is forlorn as inevitably the weed that the spray does not kill is the one that sprouts to adversely affect the harvest. One would say the non use of this is the answer. I tried it once and to my cost I know that is not an option if I am to survive.

I have had to resort to pumping water using my tractor engine to run the 3inch pump, as despite my paying for water, I do not get my allocated share, as my supposedly neighborly neighbors do their utmost to prevent me from getting any.

While it is the rainy season in the West, it is the windy season in the North East with a constant blowing. This season continues till the October rains, so it is a breeze to sleep in my veranda without electricity / fans. The problem however is that it dries things fast, where crops need more moisture, and the wind blows away the newly formed mango, where there appear to be more on the ground than on the tree, another added threat over an above the rock squirrel (see photo here near the mango) who also nibbles at the mango and it falls to the ground.

I harvested the oranges from my trees on this visit, and am pleased with their quality, and wished I had ten times this number as I can sell them now I have got the marketing sorted, but alas this will be it till next season. In agriculture however there is never a dull moment, as when you thought you could relax a new crisis erupts, and this time it was the tractor that requires a major repair. My chaps ever the optimists who think I am made of money, suggest I trade it in for the latest model without a moments realization that I am running on my last rupee in the world till I earn something from tomorrow’s sales and so I survive another day.