Why Economists are goofing up on Food Production and Supply Chains?

Why the Economists from the developed markets always goof up when it comes to global projections.

Now it is the turn of the Food Production and supply chains.

The whole system of production and of supply of food has always been on a cliff edge right from the beginning when large scales were thought of in the developed countries. They have always teetered on the edge and they have to keep in business not by establishing a segment but on constant expansion where the negatives from the previous fiscal would be compensated by more volumes and inflationary trends. This model of business is very much dependent on perceived and projected margins from a non-dependable future. This is what exactly happened in the real estate sector in the US which in turn devastated the banks which in turn brought down the viability of more modest economies of Europe for debts were called in and the downward spiral could not be absorbed without buffers. Until the government came to the rescue by infusing funds there was a threat of the whole economy of the developed country markets collapsing totally. The opening up of some third world country markets absorbed some of the shock, but there was an irrational projection for that too as these markets are little understood by western economists.

It was first done in the Automobile sector and because there was no buffer from the third world markets Detroit was totally destroyed. Then it was the real estate’s turn, nearly destroyed the whole of the western economy.

And now the same kind of methodology is now being tried in the Agricultural and Food distribution sector. China has seen a rapid expansion but India would not; due to political and conservative resistance. Right now the promise of the opening up of the Markets to this sector due to the promises of the new government in India has sent all the wheeler dealers back to the drawing board with great expansion plans and the same kind of ill placed optimism. This is going to be the final nail if it fails, and it is bound to fail due to its unsustainable and overoptimistic fundamentals. In the beginning there will be an illusion of “business as usual” for that is exactly what the new Government is hoping to project to the world business community and a seemingly fast and progressive change to “good times” for the Indian populace. But the “benefits” of this exercise; when it remains with the elite few; and hardly any trickle-down effect; is seen by the vast middle class, the main target of all markets; then there is going to be a hiccup, and subsequently breath arrest. That is the most probable scenario when you throw in the resistance to industrialized agriculture and the deteriorating quality food nutrition in supermarket chains. Add to that; the following; Indian population does, of western trends, and a penchant for the educated middle class to follow popular movements happening in the west. When the clamor for non-GMO and chemical free food and a return to organic and nutritious food gets loud enough then the Indian buyer is going to follow suit. That will be the final nail, because all the business models are being built on the perceived notion that there is huge market waiting to be tapped. As it has been pointed out recently of the Giant Chain Tesco Express in UK the sales have dipped and they are closing down more than 43 stores which are in the red and overall the sales in the top 4 chains have dipped by 5% according to Nielsen; the honeymoon with supermarkets and large supply chains is over. They will get an initial boost for surviving a few more years from the third world markets but it will just be a postponement of the inevitable.

Open Letter to Pope Francis

MARIA WIRTH

When recently, on a visit to southern India, I saw so many new churches , I got the idea to write an open letter to Pope Francis. He is getting a lot of praise for his ‘bold’ statements in the west. However, so far he only talks about ‘respectful coexistence of religions’. He needs to walk his talk and stop conversion. Here is my letter:

Respected Holy Father,

Great hope for a positive change in the Catholic Church is pinned on your Pontificate and recent statements indicate that this hope may not be misplaced. The future, your Holiness said in November 2013, is in the “respectful coexistence of diversity and in the fundamental right to religious freedom in all its dimensions, and not in muting the different voices of religion”.

This statement makes eminent sense and would need to be implemented by all who presently do not subscribe to a…

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LIFE

SELF SUSTAINABLE AGRICULTURE:

The name should have been self-explanatory but like all things on this earth it has gotten hi-jacked by many self-serving people and groups. Like the misuse of ‘Natural ‘and ‘Organic’ and it looks like you want to give it a definition. Let’s put it this way then:

  1. Conservation of LIFE is the primary goal.
  2. Admitting that the health of the EARTH is intrinsically intertwined with LIFE.
  3. Re-look at all the processes of Human endeavor which are purported to be PROGRESS.
  4. Establish a system of using resources WITHOUT DESTROYING the delicate balance of nature.
  5. PROCEED to restore the Health of the EARTH.

Well this sounds like some vague ivory tower Philosophy but the practical application of these principles will lead one to the practice of SUSTAINABLE AGRICULTURE. The actual practice of Sowing and Reaping, of Dairy Farming, of Poultry Farming, of Sheep Rearing, and so many more associated practices will vary from one geographical region to another but the principles mentioned should be the guides. To put it very shortly STOP RAPING THE EARTH. If we are under the illusion that Earth is a dead piece of dirt we will realize as we are already doing that it is not. It is a DYNAMIC ENTITY which keeps correcting all the imbalances. HUMANS are a part of this entity but not very important in the larger scheme of things. They may get eradicated in the re-balancing act. Just remember what happened to the Dinosaurs. Human life is equally inconsequential in the larger perspective of LIFE.

  Sounds like a Doomsday Soothsayer’s warning? Don’t get it wrong I am not personifying EARTH but we have worn the mantle of ‘CONSCIOUS THINKING BEINGS’ and it’s imperative that we behave as such.

Mr. Srinivasan, (6th post, writing 101)

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I run a small cafeteria near a city Metro Station. Good Hot Food is my USP.

For the last few days I had seen this aged guy, very polite, very unassuming, a timid kind of guy. He would come just as we were getting ready to close for the night.

He would say “anything left over?” as if expecting us to get annoyed with him for holding us up. The user-friendly services, for people that I had provided, to sit and eat their food, were four brightly colored plastic tables with four chairs each, spread around an open yard. It had rained that evening. And there was no place for anyone to park themselves. The bitterly cold rain had forced everyone to seek shelter in their own cozy homes. Very few people had come in to eat though it had stopped raining.

We had decided to close early when he walked in. He ordered for his usual Rice and a vegetable curry, and a bowl of curds.

“Your business must have been very low today” he said.

“Yes Sir very much so” I said.

” I like the food you serve, you see my age does not allow me to have anything which is not freshly made. Since the time I have been eating here my health has improved” he said

“How Old are you Sir?” on cue. But actually I wanted to know. He would remind anyone of a kindly Uncle they might have.  That’s the kind of way he had, of looking at you. My heart had gone out to him.

“I am 71” he said.

“Do you live nearby?” I asked

“Yes”

“Family?” I asked

“I have a big Family, two sisters, and a younger brother” he said

“You have a wife and children sir?” I asked.

It was quite common for people with a home and family to eat at my place regularly rather than at home, either to keep their diet schedules or just to save their wives and children from waiting up for them for dinner. This city was one hell of a place for commuting, keeping schedules or just having a simple family life. Most of the people who worked for their living had a chance to be in touch with people at home only on weekends and holidays. The bane of all cities all over the world.

“I live alone” he said

I was a bit uncomfortable to ask him anything more, for I was not ready to hear the answers. Looking at his age, I guessed there were some personal tragedies involved for his single status.

He must have guessed from the look on my face, because he had an amused smile when he said,

“I am a bachelor”

My face must have cleared up visibly for he laughed.

” You must be wondering why?” He said. “I will tell you when you have more time, I can see that you are eager to run back home to your wife and kids”.

” I didn’t mean to pry sir” I said

“No no no don’t think that. I really want to tell you, because I see that you really listen, rather than just hear the sounds that people make. And I can see empathy” he said.

“Very astute” I was thinking. for I had grown genuinely fond of him without realizing it.

“You remind me of my Mother’s Uncle who helped my Dad when he was in dire straits. He allowed us to stay in his house, until my Father recovered from his financial shambles, but we ended up staying there till all of us, my brother and sisters  finished our colleges and hit out on our own. We got so attached to him. He became a sort of Guide and Mentor to us”. I said

” I feel honored to get compared to a favorite person in your life” he said.

See? that was the kind of person he was. He was a guy obviously well-off, his watch, his clothes, and the car he drove made it amply obvious, but here he was saying he was honored to be compared to a family member of small guy like me, struggling to keep, a not very profitable diner, from getting blown away to oblivion. My respect for him soared.

“The best part of it was that my grand-uncle was a confirmed bachelor too”. my wonder at it obvious.

He smiled delightedly “See? we do have a connection, you and I. How old is he?” He asked

“Passed away long back sir” i said

“I am sorry”. he said, “will you do me a favor?”Sure sir anytime” I said

” OK then quit calling me ‘ sir’, I am Srinivasan, you can call me Uncle if you want, but never by that silly British left-over” he laughed.

” You were there, during the British Rule?”. I was curious. There were very few people alive nowadays, who were actually there during those times.

“Yes”  he said  “And I was around 12 yrs old when they left”. I could detect some deep disturbance and a kind of sadness in his voice, his eyes had a far-away look in them. He shook himself out of it and said “Hey! I am keeping you from closing up, let’s chat some other time. And thank you for the lovely dinner”. He made it sound that he had actually had a four course gourmet dinner.

He paid up and walked back slowly to where he had parked his car. He seemed tired unlike when, he had walked in, as if eating a meal had exhausted him. I attributed it to the cold and late hour, combined with his age. I could see him driving off slowly and carefully as was his regular habit. But today I sensed he was much slower, and kind of preoccupied. Could anyone say that about a person looking at their driving? I was wondering, or was it something I detected in him in our talk tonight. I did not think of it anymore that day as I got busy in closing up.

Many days passed and Mr. Srinivasan would turn up for dinner and unobtrusively have his usual rice. If I was not busy in the kitchen I would personally serve him which always elicited a profusely humble ‘thank you’ from him.

Then one day it happened; though I was not open for business, I was there in the diner, to do a round of cleaning up. After a lot of scrubbing and wiping and washing and cleaning I had just plonked down with a cigarette and a cup of steaming tea when he turned up.

“I noticed that you were here even on your weekly-off day, any thing special?” he smiled.

“Nothing Uncle i was just doing a bit of spring cleaning, can’t afford unhygienic conditions to prevail” I said.

“This is why I eat here” he said beaming his approval.

I offered him some tea and we got to talking and before long he was telling me his story.

“You expressed curiosity about the times when the British were here in India no? In a way it is connected to why I remained a bachelor. Well I became aware of them when I was 8 yrs’ old. Until then I had not known that my Father was a Freedom Fighter. I remember that night. The Police barged into our house and arrested my Father. His trial ended quickly and he was thrown into the dreaded Andaman island’s cellular jail. Our house, bank accounts, and all and every bit of property that we possessed was confiscated. We became untouchables among our friends and relatives. I don’t blame anyone; for Govt. retaliation was swift and terrible. We moved away to a different town and my mother worked hard as a domestic help to keep us alive. Within a year of over-work and semi-starvation; which finally resulted in tuberculosis, my Mother died. I had no time to even grieve her death. Both my sisters were polio afflicted and could not move without being carried. My brother was hardly 5 yrs old. My one and only task was to find some means of feeding all of us. I would go every day in search of work, any work, to get a few ‘paisas’ to buy something to eat. Sometimes I would find work and sometimes I had to beg  for food. On the night we got our Independence there was great celebration all around us. A group of people celebrating found the  four of us huddled under a Railway bridge which was our home. Urging us to celebrate our “Freedom” they showered on us a few Rupees. I wanted so much to shout at them about what my Father had sacrificed to achieve this day.  I did not, instead, I just gathered the 4 rupees that lay scattered on the ground. The next morning I went and bought a good meal for my siblings and a push-cart for myself, and a few vegetables from the market. That was the start of my journey into the world of business. All my life I have worked hard to educate my siblings. I worked hard  not to have them feel the absence of my Dad and Mom. Gradually I earned enough to get prosthetic support for both my sisters and also give a sizable Dowry and got them married. My brother finished college and joined me in my business. My Father they said had died in a failed attempt to escape from the terrible “Kala Paani” cellular jail of the Andaman. My relatives claimed all our ancestral property declaring that they were his next of kin and there were no other claimants. I came to know of it much later. I bought all of it including the house from where my Father had been arrested. I am staying there now. I never found the time to get married and start my own family.”

I just sat there stunned after he had finished, for a very long time. He too was immersed in his own reminiscences, reliving lost memories once again, I could see it in his eyes after the moisture from my eyes had cleared. But i could see no rancor nor any trace of bitterness in them. Here was a man who had accepted the shit life had doled out to him and won.

“Did you not try to get the help that the Indian Govt. was giving out to the families of Freedom Fighters?” I asked

He looked at me with those kindly tired eyes. I remember thinking “Whatever made me think that this was a timid man?”. I saw the quiet steel in them.

” That would mean that I was selling my Father’s sacrifices for my worldly comforts, wouldn’t it Vije?. I wouldn’t insult his honor so badly”. he said.

This was the true blood that had fought for OUR FREEDOM. Now I know what the Struggle for Freedom involved and what kind of people had done it.

I saw then in a flash ; all the Martyrs right there ; in him.

And I also learnt that day what it was to revere a Man.

My Daughter (The 5th challenge)

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                                            I remember like it was yesterday, the doctors brought you out of the delivery room, dumped the bundle that was you, in my arms and said “take care of your daughter”. Your Mom had to be taken care of for you were born of a ‘C’ Section operation. I wouldn’t attempt to recall the feelings that drowned me in their intensity. I would not have the words for it. Before I knew it, you were out of my arms cycling away to school. Before long you were sharing very feminine things only with your Mom. I did not want you growing up so fast.

                                            And now I see you a young Woman of your own young strong beautiful world, confident and strong enough to reach out when I might stumble. I have hoped to leave you a better world and a better place in the world. Only you, will know in the Long Run, if I have been successful.

                                           I have never stopped being in wonder of the Miracle that your Mom performed in bringing you to me. You have been the beacon and you will carry our torch forward.