With COVID-19 affecting almost every business around the world, the farming sector was no different. It was directly faced with the challenge of realizing the accurate value for the produced commodities. One such commodity was the Nendran banana, which is predominantly grown in Kerala.
Farmers who had invested in the cultivation of the Nendran Banana were unable to reap their planned profits. This was because, firstly, they were unable to attain export quality certification. Secondly, farmers were unable to trace their produce to the end of the value chain; their visibility on the produce ended when it left their premises, so they were unsure of the true worth of the produce. On the other side, the European demand for banana supplies from Asian countries had dropped drastically because of the shift of the consumer mindset to health and organic products, and the Nendran banana was not certified so. Analyzing the situation, the Vegetable and Fruit Promotion Council of Kerala [VFPCK] decided to take the necessary steps to market their local banana variety across the European continent.
Since the Nendran Banana is exported from Kerala, the VFPKC decided to use the geographical indicator to popularize the product, and thus increase exports and fetch a better price for its production. According to WIPO, a geographical indication (GI) is a sign used on products that have a specific geographical origin and possess qualities or a reputation that are due to that origin. To simplify, bananas exported from Kerala are quite reputed, and by using a GI, you are certifying that the banana will live up to the expected quality. The exported Nendran Banana produce was primarily targeted at NRIs staying in Europe, with a view to providing them with an opportunity to relish a local favorite even from abroad. Through this initiative, VFPCK wished to help the Indian farmer experience profitable farming by exporting quality produce. They then started the groundwork to initiate the banana consignment export overseas.
However, achieving export quality standards for European markets, especially by banana producers from the unorganized sector of Kerala, is quite challenging. The whole process demanded an organized approach and diligent coordination, beginning from planting up to the post-harvest export process. The pre-harvest activities by farmers like crop planting, pest & disease control, adhering to sustainable agriculture practices, demanded recording-keeping and advisory support from expert teams. After a banana harvest, an intense post-harvest process recording takes place to ensure quality. A processing team follows up at this end. Co-coordinating with all these multiple stake holders and keeping track of each stage wise update was daunting task for VFPCK.
The need for support
Initial setbacks helped VFPCK realize that two things: first, they were required to meet strict standards to be eligible for export; second, end-consumers were apprehensive about the origin and journey of the banana. They quickly understood that these hurdles could only be crossed by deploying digital technologies. This is when they approached the Bangalore-based TraceX Technologies team, to digitize their complete export journey, since TraceX advocated “Traceability on Blockchain”.
The TraceX approach
The biggest challenge was addressed first: end-to end multiple stakeholder connectivity. TraceX easily accommodated this requirement using their solution called “Foodsign”, which involved the farmers, an agro-advisory team, as well as a processing and export team. The tracking of the banana production extended across the value-chain: from the geo-mapped farms, to the crop cultivation and its associated activities; from coordinating between the farmer and field officer, to harvest and transfer of produce to Processing center; everything was tracked in real time. Post-harvest activities like gathering the bananas, cleaning, sorting, grading, hygiene packing and precooling process were recorded on-the-go using the Foodsign application.
Happily ever after
Eventually, TraceX delivered on its promise: all export parameters are now met and the produce is ever-ready to be sailed to Europe.
This entire journey is digitized on a single QR code, which is attached to each crate of bananas exported overseas. This code is made available to the end consumer, thus meeting the requirement of end-to-end transparency across the supply chain.
A simple scan gives them details of product origin, dates, grade, supply chain touch points. Can it get any better?
Yes! The consumer can even share their feedback on the bananas using the same QR code. The little Nendran banana from Kerala is now an international sensation. The circle is now complete.