By Madhurjya Bhattacharyya
Agriculture and allied services have been the mainstay of Assam’s economy for generations now. Rich in tural resources, the State is home to a wide variety of unique fruits, vegetables, cereals and medicil plants found only in this part of the country. People have been cultivating these for generations, but have not been able to get remunerative prices due to the lack of scientific production methods and marketing channels. Forming cooperatives to channelize produce and market them can answer the fincial viability aspect.
In the recent past there have been instances of people coming together to form cooperative societies marketing milk and fish. However, there is a need to move away from just primary agricultural activities, and move towards secondary industries. Setting up food-processing units can be a way forward to develop small-scale enterprises and develop entrepreneurship skills among the educated youth. An excellent example can be to manufacture and brand lemon juice and pickles from the traditiol Kaji lemon, found in abundance all over Assam. Lemon being a citrus fruit has a lot of medicil properties, including Vitamin C, besides digestive properties. It is a great health food and can be branded as such among health conscious people.
Marketing such unique products found only in this part of the country would require producing huge quantities of such fruits, cereals or medicil plants, and this involves intensive labour. A chain of economic activities can possibly be developed whereby some people may be engaged in production of high-quality saplings, while others engage in supplying manure required for high-quality raw material. The concept can be similar to small-scale tea planters that we find all over upper Assam. Being labour-intensive, a large number of youths can gainfully be employed so as to maintain a constant supply of quality agricultural goods. Right from plantation to consumption by the end user, the scope of generating employment is enormous.
The market of such innovative merchandise is huge considering the fact that such commodities are not available in other parts of the country. Besides, people of Assam are spread across the country and abroad. Moreover, there are a lot of people from the rest of the country who have made Assam their home. Harnessing this huge potential requires innovative online and offline marketing tactics. Besides local selling, a great way to sell such produce is using eCommerce platforms which have a global reach and not just in India.
The main challenge of running a successful cooperative society is political interference, lack of professiolism and shortage of visiory leadership. The maging body of a cooperative society being elected by members amongst themselves, some people may have a tendency to indulge in politics to acquire positions in the governing body. This tendency destroys the essence of the whole concept of a cooperative society, thereby making the whole process a failure.
Thus, if run properly, cooperative societies have the potential of generating employment not just in agriculture, but in horticulture and numerous other allied activities as well. The need of the hour is for enterprising people to come forward to initiate such small-scale projects without depending on or expecting anything from the government. Today, there are several youngsters who have come back leaving lucrative careers in multitiol companies in other parts of India and abroad. The knowledge and expertise of such youngsters should be harnessed for such projects, which would ultimately create an ecosystem for business, thereby uplifting the economy of the State.