The less-than-a-month-old Uzhavar Sandhai at Vadavalli, a suburb west of the city, has registered a sale of more than six lakh vegetables for over Rs.1 crore, pointing at its popularity among people.
Located on 56 cents, it was built at Rs.25 lakh and opened on July 14. It has 30 stalls that sell a wide variety of vegetables ranging from the locally grown coriander leaves and small onions to the potatoes and cabbage from the Nilgiris.
The sellers come from various places in and around Vadavalli and even from Kotagiri in the Nilgiris.
People from Vadavalli, Veerakeralam, Somayampalayam and Edayarpalayam that comes under Kavundampalayam Municipality come here, says member of the District Agricultural Marketing Committee V.S. Rangarajan.
“This is a long-felt need of this region and there are plans to construct 15 more stalls,” says former president of Vadavalli Town Panchayat V.M. Shanmughasundaram, who is being credited with pursuing the project for the Uzhavar Sandhai.
“District Collector P. Umanath has helped us realise the dream for the shandy in Vadavalli.”
“I started pursuing this when the first Uzhavar Sandhai was opened some years ago on Cowley Brown Road at R.S. Puram in the city (He was then president of the town panchayat). The efforts began showing signs of success only six months ago. We removed unauthorised settlements on this site and relocated people elsewhere. The shandy spares the people of four or five suburbs the trip to R.S. Puram,” he says.
Sharing this view, R. Velusamy, a farmer, says he used to spend half-a-litre of petrol every day for his trip to the shandy at R.S. Puram to transport drumsticks, onions, coriander leaves and bananas from his 2.5-acre farm near Navavoor Pirivu.
“Now, this amount of petrol lasts for four days,” he says, explaining the economic benefits of not having to travel nearly 15 km every day - to and from R.S. Puram.
The buyers say this applies to them also. “I used to ride to the R.S. Puram shandy till this one was opened. Now, I can walk to the Vadavalli shandy and save the cost on travel,” says R. Jagannathan. “I come here every day and take home fresh vegetables. This helps me avoid stocking these for a week.”
Apart from travel-related cost factor, another benefit is the price of the vegetables in the shandy, D. Hamsavalli points out.
“Till now, many of us were dependent on the small quantities of vegetables sold at the shops in Vadavalli. And, the price was much higher. Now, I get drumsticks at the shandy for half the price sold at these shops,” she says.
The cost of a drumstick at most shops along Marudamalai Road is Rs.3. It is Rs.1.50 at the shandy, she says. N. Sivakami says tomato is cheaper by Rs.2 a kg.
“We want the below poverty line families to know of the cost benefit at this shandy. They are used to buying vegetables from small shops in their colonies and assume that the prices will be high in a huge shandy. This view of theirs is based on the image of and prices at elite vegetable and fruit chains, Mr. Shanmughasundaram says.
Rukmani, a resident of an Adi-Dravidar colony nearby, came to the shandy for the first time on Sunday. “We have come here because a few people in our neighbourhood said vegetables were cheap,” she said.
Mr. Shanmughasundaram says the word has to spread further. The concept of Uzhavar Sandhai is meant for the benefit of the poor also.
Appreciating the move of taking Uzhavar Sandhais to the suburbs also, retired Professor of Plant Pathology of Tamil Nadu Agricultural University A. Palaniswamy cautions against allowing middlemen into the shandy instead of genuine farmers.
“There have been such instances in other shandies. This will defeat the purpose of bringing direct benefit to the farmers and the buyers,” he says.
Assistant Administrative Officer P. Nataraj shows the identity cards issued to the farmers. “They have to produce these on entry and then go to the stalls,” he says.
“We also announce the prices of each vegetable on a public address system so that excess cost is not collected from the public.”
The activities at the shandy are closely monitored by Deputy Director of Agriculture Business K.S. Subramanian.