It smells like fresh vegetable broth when Veeralakshmanan Bagavathi, responsible for sustainability and the inclusive business approach of Covestro in Indian Sub-Continent, opens the door of the solar dryer. "We have already installed more than 250 large solar dryers, 3000 small drying boxes and 135 refrigerated containers throughout the country," says Veeralakshmanan. "This is a great success on the road to working with our partners, small businesses and the government to open up new business opportunities for the rural population and to make food safer.
Deep green, orange and red vegetable slices lie neatly lined up on large trays and dry in less than two days - hygienically and without losing their aroma. The dried vegetables fetch good prices from the growing number of food processors. That is why more and more cooperative farms are investing in the new technology for cooling and drying with the help of government subsidy programs to provide small farmers and their families with a better yield.
High losses with agricultural products
The high failure rate of agricultural products, in particular, is a problem for the farmers: while India is the second-largest producer of fruit and vegetables worldwide, around 40 percent of the harvest intended for human consumption is ruined by blight. This adds up to an unimaginable 83 million tons per year. Losses are felt at every stage of the value chain: during harvest, transportation, processing, packaging and finally by consumers.
In addition to the technical problems, the farmers suffer from non-transparent market conditions and incomprehensible pricing by intermediaries. A large portion of the food spoils on its way from the fields to consumers’ plates since storage, processing and trade do not go hand in hand. Acute bottlenecks can result. Therefore, it is important to provide food in suitable quantities and of better quality at local markets. At the same time, the farmers should be able get better prices.