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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Subscribing to Hamdu Mia's vegetables

One of the great things about packaging is that it presents consumers with the 'first moment of truth' with the product they are contemplating to purchase, consume and/or refer to others. The 2nd moment of truth is when you actually unpack the product and start using it, consuming it. Sticking to the first moment of truth, ever wonder how that could be used for telling stories about agricultural goods?

The idea is simple and so is the question I am asking. Would it make any difference to your purchasing decision or the way you look at a bag full of brinjals or cabbiages if the pack has a picture of the farmer who produced it, which part of rural Bengal he hails from, his name and specialities? Although the idea seems straight forward but like all other good things in life, there are challenges in the context of Bangladesh. Lets look at why and why not, how and how not - you would want to do this.

1. It has the potential to brand specific farmers who actually grow the agricultural produce and who actually deserve all the credit and recognition for their hard work. So even if Nandan or Agora sells vegetables, there is no harm in recognising the source.

2. As a regular buyer of fruits, vegetables, I don't think it will make any revolutionary impact on my purchase decisions of such day to day food items which are not cost sensitive too, like buying electornic goods. However, if I get to read a story about the farmer..say 'Hamdu Mia' who carefully produced the nice and healthy looking cabbiages in his humble land of 0.5 acres situated in Panchbibi in Joypurhat, North-West just has an added possibility of giving a face to the otherwise faceless vegetables and fruits. It also has the chance of a story telling to take place, attempting to establish a human connection between the consumer and the producer.

3. There is no mystery in the fact that the huge number of intermediaries that buy bulk agri-produce from the original farmers and make it available in city markets make the whole scenario very complicated. There is a high chance that the story of the actual farmer might get lost in carriage and change of hands before it reaches the city from the rural fields.

4. Although some upclass city malls sell vegetables and fruits, its largely sold in kitchen markets in neighbourhoods by retailers who might not be interested to 'tell any kind of story of any farmer' whatsoever.

It seems that the only people who can infact introduce some sort of storytelling element to this are the Agoras and Nandans. They can easily accommodate a picture of the farmer along with a short story of the journey the vegetables made in the same board displayed for price in the aisles and shelves. I agree to the fact that telling a story of the producer of the fruit will not make them taste any more delicious or the vegetables any more healthier...but who knows...if you can give it a right spin backed with evidence that the 'potatoes produced by Hamdu Mia' or the 'Brinjals coming from Feni' are the best in terms of quality and food value..then there you have it! However, we better give due credit to Hamdu Mia when his goods get sold well in the city vegetable markets, some sort of a mechanism to recognise him, monetary or otherwise, would make him happy and appreciated.

Photographer : S. A. Mahmud Salim
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