Lockdown farmers markets in Bengaluru
Direct marketing activities and potential for rural-urban linkages in the food system
Rural-urban linkages are vital elements in a sustainable food system. As the COVID-19 pandemic unfolded, supply chains were disrupted and fear of infection impacted food shopping decisions, pushing consumers to seek local and safer options for procuring fresh produce. Direct marketing arose as a promising alternative for both consumers and producers. We undertook a study in Bengaluru, India, in order to understand what direct marketing activities have unfolded with the COVID-19 pandemic. Media reports highlighted the plight of farmers struggling to market their harvest during lockdown as well as the farm to fork initiatives and lockdown farmers markets that have been created as a response. We see this moment as an opportunity to develop Bengaluru’s food system to be more sustainable, specifically through the City Region Food System framework. This study conducted online and telephone surveys with both consumers and producers in Bengaluru to explore the elements of supply and demand that have fostered and hindered direct marketing schemes. We found that consumers are interested in sourcing fruits and vegetables directly from farmers, but communication and logistics between consumers and producers are major hindrances. Although producers are diversifying their marketing strategies, they need to be implemented at economically viable scales to ensure long-term success. We find that the role of technology, specifically messaging apps, can streamline direct marketing activities and remove the barriers that currently hamper rural-urban linkages. Furthermore, existing community and farmer organizations have the size and scale to make direct marketing schemes a worthy endeavor for both consumers and producers.
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