Having finished with the cultivation of babycorn, Sukhwinder Singh of Nangal Kalan village, 30 km from here, is planning to sow the next crop. The farmer is doing contract farming for Bharti-Walmart for the past six years and takes pride in sharing the details of the increase in his profit.
"After sowing paddy and wheat in 20 acres of land, my profit was restricted to Rs 50,000-Rs 60,000 but it increased to Rs 90,000 to Rs 1 lakh after I brought the land under babycorn," says Sukhwinder Singh.
When asked about the mode of payment from the company, the farmer says that in less than a week the entire amount is transferred in his bank account. "The company is fair and generous in making payments," he adds.
FDI, according to him, will be beneficial for farmers, traders as well as consumers. He says that given a chance and good price for his produce and assurance by the government, he would completely switch over to contract farming with the new foreign players.
His ventures have generated employment for more than 20 women from nearby villages as they work as daily wagers for at least 100 days a year, he says.
Lakhwinder Singh, a young farmer from Gujjarwal village, 25 km from here, is attached with Bharti-Walmart for the past four years. He started with cultivation of babycorn in 10 acres and gradually brought additional eight acres under snow peas, sugar snap and French beans.
"I procure babycorn seed from Bharti farms at Laddowal, which is followed by a technical training and know-how of progressive farming, which are elemental in my growth. My annual earnings, which were restricted to Rs 50,000, jumped up to Rs 2.5 lakh that brought a drastic change in my lifestyle. I can now think of sending my children to good colleges which wouldn't have been possible had I not entered this venture," says Lakhwinder.
"I have recommended business with Bharti-Walmart to a couple of my friends and relatives. Some have already tied up with the company while others are giving it a serious thought," he says.
Contract farming has also generated work for field labour, especially women, as Manjit Kaur, 24, working as a daily wager in Sukhwinder's babycorn fields, earns Rs 150 daily for 100-120 days a year. "I earn more than Rs 15,000 in a year and having worked for the past six years I have saved a lot of money for my marriage," says Manjit.
Daljit Singh, former general manager of Field Fresh, Bharti-Walmart, in Ludhiana, while referring to the controversy over "no benefits" to marginal and small farmers, says these fears are baseless. "Having worked with Bharti-Walmart, I know marginal and small farmers get more business as it is easy for the companies to organise and discipline them. One such project was undertaken with small farmers in cultivation of mint in 20,000 acres in Punjab and it was an instant hit," says Daljit.
"The number of middlemen in our country is very less and it is a myth that the middlemen would be out of business. The FDI retail stores will not be able to cater to the entire population; thus small retailers and traders will carry on with their businesses. Besides, small traders are already rushing to these FDI wholesale stores to buy at lower prices and sell it at higher prices, so where does the question of the threat arise," he says.
An employee at Bharti-Walmart says she is happy working with the company. "I get salary, perks and promised leave. To top it all, the work environment is cordial."