Building Short Supply Chains Around Consumer Participation: Community – Supported Agriculture and Consumer Cooperatives in India
The Indian domestic market for organic food has developed rapidly and dynamically over the past few years. New processing companies, suppliers and organic stores are coming up on a monthly basis. Branded organic products have now made an entry into many conventional retail stores. However, most supermarkets and even many organic stores still do not sell fresh organic fruits and vegetables, either because of the logistical hurdles and high risks of selling perishable products, or because no supplies are available(Osswald & Menon 2013). Farmers practicing sustainable small scale agriculture lack adequate market access that allows them to sell their products profitably. At the same time, demand for organic fresh produce is highest among all product groups (Rao et al. 2006; Osswald & Dittrich 2010).
In urban centres, several new and innovative approaches to organic food distribution are now emerging that try to bridge this gap between demand and supply of organic fresh produce.These new models of distribution include several initiatives that can be loosely grouped under the label of community – supported agriculture (CSA). They operate in regional and local networks and are often organized as social enterprises or as cooperatives.While they share several characteristics with alternative food networks and CSAs found in other parts of the world, they also display some unique features as a result of adaptation to a specific local context. CSA is an adaptable concept, and Henderson (2010) notes that “once they seize upon the basic principles, farmers and citizen – consumers in each culture are adapting CSA to their local conditions.”
The action manual “A Share in the Harvest” published by the Soil Association in the UK defines CSA as “a partnership between farmers and consumers where the responsibilities and rewards of farming are shared. (…) CSA is a shared commitment to building a more local and equitable agricultural system, one that allows farmers to focus on good farming practices and still maintain productive and profitable farms” (Soil Association, 2009: 3). CSAs are based on personal relationships and aim to build stronger communities around food. In a CSA, all members commit to share the risks involved in any farming enterprise, for example by way of consumers holding a farm share, pre-paying for a season’s produce or giving farmers a purchasing guarantee. CSAs challenge the passive identity of consumers, by involving all members actively in the production process.