The e-Sahamathi app, developed by the e-governance department with the help of National Informatics Centre (NIC), will enable farmers to give their consent to interested retailers to contact them to negotiate a deal for their produce, state officials said.
Chief minister BS Yediyurappa is expected to launch the app sometime this month.
“This is an open API. A retailer can access details such as a farmer’s name, his crop, landholding, location etc., on a real-time basis of only those farmers who have consented,” additional chief secretary (e-governance) Rajeev Chawla told ET.
“We have not spoken to any retailer, but we will give wide publicity about this technology-enabled feature. All stakeholders can make use of this. The government’s role ends there,” he said.
His department has built a huge database with details of seven million farmers in Karnataka including their names, landholding, place, and type of crop or crops grown. “We spend about ₹100 crore every year to gather crop survey data of farmlands spread over 25 million plots,” Chawla said. “We have a network of about 30,000 paid surveyors who upload this data, with the picture of crops, on a realtime basis.”
Now, the government can share details of consenting farmers with big retailers looking to buy farm products directly from farmers.
Karnataka had last year amended its agricultural produce market committee (APMC) law to allow farmers to sell their produce directly to retailers and food processing firms outside regulated mandis.
An analyst said the launch of e-Sahamathi is the logical next step after ending APMC’s monopoly over farm produce.
If the app works well, it will lead to better price discovery for farm produce, leading to better incomes and less indebtedness in rural areas, said the analyst who requested not to be identified.
Shakeel Ahmed, project director of the state e-governance department’s Farmer Registration & Unified Beneficiary Information System (FRUITS), said farmers are free to update data related to their crops and the area on the crop survey app.
The government uses this data for purposes such as market intervention such as procurement at minimum support price (MSP), or for transferring input subsidies, he said. Now, the same can be used to enable direct sale of farm produce to retailers, addressing one of the biggest challenges for farmers, namely finding buyers who can offer competitive prices, officials said.
The app will also help companies selling seeds, fertilisers, pesticides, and bank loans to offer their produce or services to consenting farmers, they said.
It will allow buyers to reach growers most suitable to meet their requirements.
Retailers can seek out regionspecific and landholding-based information as some large retailers may not want to deal with many farmers with small landholdings, officials said.
A retailer, for example, may be looking for a flower or tomato grower with a minimum of fiveacre plot within 50 km from Bengaluru, Ahmed said. The e-Sahamathi app will quickly scan the FRUITS database and share names of only those growers who have given their consent, he said.
The government database includes details like when a certain crop of a farmer in a specific location will be ready for harvest. “For instance, we can share details of tomato growers around Bengaluru whose crop will be ready for harvest in the next one month,” Chawla said.
The FRUITS database is connected with Bhoomi, the state’s land records management system, which in turn is linked to sub-registrar offices.
This enables the government to have access to updated information about ownership of farm plots, said NR Samartharam, senior technical director at National Informatics Centre. Officials said they expect most farmers in the state to welcome the new app. MSP procurement in Karnataka is small compared to states like Punjab and Haryana, they pointed out.