Meeting the heightened market demand for food-safe chillies which are not just free from chemical residue but are also produced in a socially and environmentally sustainable manner can be made possible only through integrated farm management initiatives and a deep commitment to sustainable farming. ITC Spices, with its commitment beyond market is paving the way for food-safe, sustainable chillies with consistent quality and supply.
Most of the farmers cultivating chilli in India are small farmers (average land holding of 1.5ha) who lack access to latest farming technologies and innovations. Since, agriculture is the only source of income for many small farmers, risk aversion and resistance to changes in farming practices, which the market demands, are quite common. Also, low average returns on investment, poor growth in profitability, comparatively better returns of competing crops and exploitation of resources are threatening the sustainability of the environment, the community and the business.
In view of these challenges, a unique business model needs to be crafted to ensure sustainable supply of produce with desired attributes which also augments the environment and social capital. But inherent problems in the agricultural landscape (small scale farming) and intense usage of natural and artificial resources in chilli cultivation demand sustainable practices to ensure security of supply. Today, market dynamics imply that sustainability is no more an option but an imperative.
If large scale farm sustainability programmes in the Indian landscape are to be successful, farming initiatives with an immediate direct tangible benefit for farmers are imperative. Keeping this in mind, ITC is undertaking customized programmes for chilli cultivation in a way that constantly improves farmer profitability while ensuring environment and social sustainability. With full-scale farm interventions, ITC Spices is engaging the farmer across the crop life-cycle from cultivation to harvest with profit accountability for the farmer at every stage. The initiatives help increase farmer profitability through yield improvement, reduction in cost of cultivation and improvement in quality of produce.
In order to tackle aversion attitude and demonstrate the benefits of suggested sustainability initiatives, the 'proof-of-concept' model is being adopted wherein some farmer fields are chosen as demonstration plots (along with control plots) and initiatives are attempted on a pilot scale. The results help risk-averse farmers to understand the benefits and promote adaptability on a large-scale.
Comprehensive farm interventions, pro-farmer initiatives and quality control measures are helping create a sustainable, replicable model to improve the profitability for farmers, create sustainable livelihoods, penetrate the farmer community, augment the area under cultivation, and ensure the high quality and consistent supply to promptly meet the growing demand for food-safe Indian spices. The initiatives include providing technology for soil preparation, post-harvest management support, deploying ITC's field extension team guides to monitor agricultural practices and ensure quality control at every stage to reduce overall costs including transport costs to ensure attractive prices for farmer produce.
ITC Spices' farmer-centric initiatives are simultaneously ensuring environment integrity and promoting community development by creating sustainable livelihoods and enhancing the competitiveness of the large value chain of which it is a part.