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Green revolution

Malabar Hill homemaker Nita Singh (44) has been making a conscious effort to keep her kitchen organic since March. It wasn’t easy.

mumbai Updated: Oct 03, 2010 01:30 IST
Bhairavi Jhaveri

Malabar Hill homemaker Nita Singh (44) has been making a conscious effort to keep her kitchen organic since March. It wasn’t easy.

“All I could find, until recently, was organically produced wholewheat bread,” she says. “Now, I have everything from organic pulses and red rice to jaggery, oil, papad and honey delivered to my doorstep.”

That’s courtesy GreenFields, a six-month-old organic store in Kala Ghoda.

Singh and her husband Rajiv (44), who are trying to watch their weight and raise their two children on pesticide-free produce, are one of more than 100 families that have become regular shoppers at GreenFields.

That is just one indication of the growing the demand for organic produce in Mumbai.

Across the city, organic suppliers and retailers are increasing their volumes and their range of offerings to meet this rising demand. Restaurants are offering more organic dishes on their menus. The second season of the Sunday Farmers’ Market in Bandra expects double the turnout it got at the last market in March.

“I’ve had plenty of e-mails asking when the market would return after the monsoon,” says eco-nutritionist Kavita Mukhi, the woman behind the initiative. “In response to the rising interest levels, we have decided to expand our offerings.”

The Farmers’ Market, first introduced in March, allows organic farmers from across Maharashtra to sell their produce directly to the consumer. Closed for the monsoon, it returns this weekend.

One of the Market’s ‘food partners’, Cuffe Parade restaurant Flamboyante, is stepping up its game too. In addition to dishing out organic food for shoppers at the market, it will also add more organic dishes to its restaurant menu.

“Twenty per cent of the menu will be organic,” says owner Amrish Arora. “Our new Green Lite menu will add one healthy or light dish made with organic produce on each course in all three cuisines — Indian, Oriental and Italian. With the supply of organic vegetables now more stable and permanent, we plan to offer even more organic dishes over time.”

Also a product of this growing demand is Hari Bhari Tokri, an organic fruit and vegetables supplier that promises to deliver a weekly supply to your doorstep from farms around Mumbai.

The service has a November launch date, but has already got 600 takers.

“We opened for registrations in mid-August, just for 15 days, and we got 200 subscribers, with another 400 now on the wait list,” says Ubai Hussein of the Mumbai Organic Farmers and Consumers Association, which is behind this scheme.

This is good news for businesswoman and Bandra resident Smitha Arora (30), who was introduced to organic milk and milk products at Mukhi’s Market and has been enjoying an organic lifestyle ever since, buying from local stores like FabIndia and Nature’s Basket in the months the market was shut.

“These stores don’t sell fresh vegetables and fruits,” she says. “It’s awesome that we will now have delivery services for such produce.”

Meanwhile, as growing demand pushes up volumes, prices are seeing a corresponding drop, encouraging even more families to go organic.

“Except for organic dals, which cost 25 per cent to 40 per cent more, most of our other products are now priced at a par with conventional department store rates,” says Sanjay Doctor, owner of the GreenFields store. “The brown basmati rice, for instance, is priced at Rs 75 per kilo; the wheat atta at Rs 35.”

Encouraged by the demand, department store chains like Food Bazaar are hoping to expand their organic sections too.

“We are currently supplying to 12 Food Bazaars in the city, but we are on the verge of tying up with all 350 across India,” says Subhashish Ghosh Roy, sales manager at Morarka Organic Foods, the city’s first organic retail brand.

The customers, meanwhile, don’t seem overly concerned by the higher prices of organic produce.

“I’ve been spending between Rs 500 to Rs 1,000 more per month since I switched to organic food,” says Singh. “But we feel it’s worth it.”

For others, like Churchgate-based communications consultant Vero Ghalleb-de Sa (45), it’s a lifestyle choice too. “Of course it’s reassuring to know that what I am eating is of good quality,” says Ghalleb-de Sa, a regular at GreenFields and a member of Hari Bhari Tokri. “But it also makes sense for the farmers, the environment and the planet.”