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Farmers turn shareholders

india Updated: Aug 17, 2007 06:11 IST
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Once the spice of death, ginger is changing lives in this hill district of Assam.

Take Manga Singson for instance. This farmer from Kotlem village never knew the ginger he grew was worth a fortune beyond the local mandi ruled by mercenary middlemen. Today, he is a key member of a bullish group of growers possessing market-driven share certificates.

No, Singson has never heard of the Sensex. But he knows each of his shares in the Ginger Growers’ Cooperative Marketing Federation (Gin-Fed) has a face value of Rs 50. And that it has been rising ever since Gin-Fed cut middlemen out. The stories of other shareholders like Francis Enghi of Muzong village and Jona Sing Timung of Longnit are no different.

Assam accounts for 41 per cent of India’s annual ginger yield of 2.75 lakh tonnes, which is 33 per cent of the global production. The bulk of the state’s ginger is grown in Karbi Anglong, and all of it is organic.

“Most farmers were unaware that the low-fibre Manja variety of ginger they grow is one of the world’s finest, and that middlemen had been giving them a raw deal,” Karbi Anglong deputy commissioner M. Angamuthu told HT. Manja, ironically, is named after the local ginger-trading settlement where traders forced farmers to sell their produce for Rs 2-3 per kg for decades. “This was a pittance for Karbi ginger is worth Rs 20 crore annually in Delhi’s Azadpur mandi,” said Angamuthu, who ideated Gin-Fed in February this year.

As a test run, Gin-Fed procured 200 metric tonnes of ginger from member-farmers at a minimum of Rs 8 per kilo. The ginger was sold across northern India for Rs 13 a kilo. The profit was distributed among the members after an amount of 50 p per kilogram was deducted towards running the office.

“Ginger farmers are now upbeat about trading some 20,000 metric tones annually through Gin-Fed,” said Angamuthu. The number of shares owned by a member is decided by land holding patterns, much like tribal customary laws.