Some months ago, MSME minister Nitin Gadkari launched an organic paint made from, if you please, cow dung; roughly 150-170 kg of cow dung is required to produce 500 litres of ‘prakritik’ paint. The Khadi and Village Industries Commission (KVIC) that produces ‘prakritik’ paint has a 500 liter-per-day facility at Jaipur right now; while this is to be doubled by the end of May, six more 500 litre-per-day plants will be set up in Odisha, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh during this month. Based on the price paid for cow dung right now, estimates are a farmer can earn an additional Rs 30,000 per year from each cow.
How many farmers can benefit from this, of course, will depend on how well the paint does, but keep in mind the size of the industry dominated by players like Asian Paints and Berger Paints is around Rs 60,000 crore. KVIC, itself, has done very well in the last five years, with sales almost doubling to around Rs 88,000 crore in FY20. Besides Khadi apparel, the biggest growth has been seen in the village industry products—these comprise around three-fourths of KVIC turnover—like cosmetics, soaps & shampoos, ayurvedic medicines, honey, oils, tea, pickles, papad, etc
In addition, the government would do well to look at other marketing avenues as well. Online marketing, such as that done by firms like Walmart-Flipkart and Amazon, should also be tried, given their huge success in providing pan-Indian—and even export—market access to lakhs of MSMEs across the country. Indeed, while it is obvious that doubling the incomes of Indian farmers will require reforms in cropping patterns etc, the most important aspect is marketing reform. While marketing reforms attempted over the last year have been to try and move farmers away from the chokehold of arhatiyas, the introduction of sophisticated channels, especially online ones, will really boost per unit realisations for farmers, whether it is for honey, gobar paint or traditional crops.
Indeed, the rapid growth of agritech startups may also help boost value by coming up with other innovations made from traditional farm/village produce. And, unlike in the past where input suppliers—such as fertiliser or seed firms—typically worked in silos while selling their products, the new technique is to pool resources and even look for marketing solutions. It is only when there is a readymade market to buy their increased production—as a result of better seeds, fertiliser or drip irrigation—that farmers will be willing to pay more for inputs.