Strengthening market access for small-scale farmers in India
“Before we worked with Y-Cook we didn’t grow sweet corn, but only flowers and millet. With corn we have fixed prices, which are much better,” says Krishna Muthy, a farmer from the village of Kanekal in India’s Andhra Pradesh state. As a farmer supplier to Oikocredit’s Indian partner Y-Cook, he has seen his corn crop prices and yields improve significantly, providing him with a stable income and a better quality of life for his whole family.
Fresh and healthy produce
Krishna is one of over 2,000 farmers across four Indian states who supply Oikocredit’s partner Y-Cook with produce. Y-Cook is a young, innovative company which produces a range of fresh and healthy ready-to-eat food products, packaged within hours of being harvested and free of preservatives and additives.
Y-cook works closely with its farmer suppliers, offering them a programme of services which includes soil testing, training in good agricultural practices and quality control.
Free seeds and expertise
Farmers like Krishna greatly appreciate the expertise and support they receive from Y-Cook. As Krishna points out: “The corn seed is provided for free and I also don’t have to pay for the harvesting. Without the investment from Y-Cook, growing corn for two months I would earn INR 22,000 (€ 275) but with the support I now receive I can earn INR 30,000 (€ 375).”
Y-cook procures its own seeds, which are sown in centralised nurseries. The nurseries provide the seedlings to the farmers free of charge. The leftover produce is given to local cattle owners for free, and they use it as fodder.
As Gayathri Swahar, Y-Cook’s Marketing Director explains: “The corn stover is used as fodder for the dairy cows. In Kanekal the farmers’ cows used to produce five cans of milk. Since being fed with the stover they produce 25 cans of milk! Independent research shows an income increase of 114%.”
Better yields and incomes
The technical advice and general support given to over 2,000 farmers supplying Y-Cook has led to increased output, and in turn higher and more stable incomes. Moreover, the farmers can sell on their doorsteps rather than having to go to local markets.
Y-Cook has a robust farmer linkage programme which has de-risked the farmer’s business; its tried-and-tested model connects the farmers to agricultural value chains that reach beyond their local communities. The company also provides indirect employment to over 300 women in rural areas in semi-skilled jobs and various community initiatives which benefit the local ecosystem.
Partnering to improve lives
Recognising Y-Cook’s impact on the local economy and its capacity to improve the quality of life of smallholder farmers, Oikocredit made an equity investment in Y-Cook (together with venture-capital company 021 Capital) in May 2018. The investment in Y-Cook is consistent with Oikocredit’s strategy of investing in companies which aim to deliver social impact and provide support to micro and small businesses. Working with Y-Cook improves market access for the farmers, and provides better links with other actors in the supply chain.
Healthy and ready-to-eat food products
Y-Cook’s own strategy is to create products which make cooking more convenient and affordable to cater to the demands of India’s growing working and middle classes who wish to spend less time in the kitchen and eat healthy, natural food. To cater to this rapidly growing market, Y-Cook produces a range of healthy, ready-to-eat food products which are free of preservatives and can be stored for up to a year at room temperature; the range includes boiled vegetables, fruits and lentils all marketed under the brand name Ta-daa.
Scientific farming methods
Janardhan Swahar, CEO of Y-Cook explains the benefits for all involved: “Working closely with the farmers not only ensures quality in the produce but also allows us to help farmers to become more conversant in scientific farming methods, thereby creating a sustainable farming environment for generations to come.” The farmers’ standard operating procedures are monitored, and the periodic support provided guarantees the quality of the produce. The result is produce of high-quality with zero pesticide residue.
There are also set standards of operations for harvesting and transporting the produce. The produce from the farms is processed within 20 hours of being harvested so that it keeps its peak-harvest freshness, texture, taste, colour and nutrition.
Since becoming a farmer supplier for Y-Cook, Krishna Muthy can look forward to a brighter future for himself and his family. And the future looks bright for Y-Cook too: the company expects to be working with over 5,500 farmers by 2021 as the demand for healthy, ready-to-eat products continues to rise.