With an extra 25 lakh BPL families logging to Rural Net this week, Kerala is also the last in the south to savour CIIs marketing platform to the rural poor. CII has facilitated a tie-up with Taj Group of hotels for supply of organic vegetables cultivated by Kudumbasree self-help groups (SHGs) in Kerala, according to Pamela Anna Mathew, chairperson, Project Rural Net, CII, southern region. Local business tie-ups are also meant to equip the farmer infrastructure in Kerala for the organic vegetable boom that will succeed the emerging WTO regime in 2004, she said.
Four months ago, CII had forged a partnership between Infarm, a farmer NGO outfit and Casino Group for supply of organic chicken. High-end hotel groups are willing to fork out a premium for pesticide-free, fertiliser-free food raw material supply, Fr Mathew Vadakkemuri, chairman, Infarm told FE. The Casino group has offered to take 500 kg of organic chicken daily at a whopping price of Rs 60 per kg. The market price for chicken without the organic tag is in the Rs 35-40 per kg band.
The Infarm arrangement had emerged a run-up to the extension of Rural Net to neighbourhood groups. As Keralas Kudumbasree SHGs are shepherded to fill the supply gap in organic chicken, CII is also in parleys with Handicrafts Corporation of India for supply contract of handicraft made by Kudumbasree SHGs. The thrust in CII partnership initiatives will be for products like bulk-sold, eco-friendly and functional handicraft like coconut-shell ladles, Ms Pamela Anna Mathew said.
SHGs in Kerala had recently forged an arrangement with Ford Foundation for purchase of Rs 5 crore worth handmade-cloth dossiers as conference souveniers, according to TK Jose, ED, Kudumbasree State Poverty Eradication Mission, Kerala government.
While AP, TN and Karnataka governments had been quick to seize the CIIs good office in marketing linkages for self-help groups, in Kerala there has been no direct government interface. As CIIs Rural Net adds 25 lakh families through 1.21 lakh SHGs in Kerala, rural income generation is to foster markets for industry. Not a raw deal for CII, indeed.