After the Tamil Nadu government reduced the timings for sales of essentials between 6 am and 1 pm, people thronging vegetable shops has become a common scene. Despite the government’s constant appeal to the people to maintain social distancing, they crowd near shops as early as 6.30 am. At vegetable markets, the scene is even worse. Due to space crunch, the sellers too could not ask customers to stand a metre apart.
That is when the state horticulture department has come up with a plan to introduce combo packs of fruits and vegetables that would be delivered at doorsteps within 24 hours of placing the order. Launched six months ago, e-Thottam (e-Garden) portal had been selling each fruit and vegetable separately. But from April 7, it has begun selling five to six varieties of fruits and vegetables as combo packs.
While vegetable combo packs are priced between ₹300 and ₹600, fruits range from ₹500 to ₹800. “We sell 1/4 kg vegetable combo pack at ₹300, which would sufficient for three members for a week,” says Tamil Vendhan, additional director of the department. A pack priced at ₹500 will contain 1/2 kg of various vegetables and cater to five people. Similarly, 1 kg pack at ₹600 will be enough for seven.
As of now, the department offers this service only in Chennai. But plans are in the pipeline to extend this initiative to other districts too, he says. “The Chennai Corporation has 15 zones and 200 wards. Besides home delivery, we have 15 vans that sell vegetables between 6 am and 1 pm. We travel to different wards everyday, so that we could meet the needs all people, says Vendhan.
Currently, all goods are packed in and distributed from a unit in Madhavaram. Vegetables are packed in a biodegradable covers, he says. “We have got special passes to visit farmlands and collect vegetables and fruits directly from farmers. The initiative benefits both farmers and consumers.”
Many items in the portal are out of stock and Vendhan says it is due to a technical glitch. “We have set up a separate server for the portal. On April 7 alone, we received nearly 700 orders and about 4,000 people visited out site. We have enough quantity of vegetables and fruits” he says.
But the idea of combo pack is not new in the state. It first started at Uzhavar Santhai (farmers’ market) in Theni district. Farmers there sell a bag with 18 different vegetables for ₹150. The bag, named Kaaikari Thoguppu (mix of vegetables) became an instant hit among the people.
Following Theni, a farmers doing horticulture in Tiruvannamalai district launched a mobile vegetable market that sells a bag of 14 different vegetables at ₹100. In Madurai too, the district administration has begun to deliver vegetable bags. In these districts, sellers have been using cloth bags. Though some doubt the quality of vegetables when they are sold at such a reasonable price, others express happiness over it.