Features – January 31, 2008
Anton Muhajir, Contributor, Denpasar
The front yard of Pizza Bagus in Pengosekan, Ubud, was bustling with activity one recent morning.
Vendors had transformed the cramped yard into Ubud’s first organic market. Buyers carefully scoured piles of various organic food products, from fruits and vegetables to bread, honey, and ice cream.
Dutch national Edith van Walsum, a mother of two children, said shopping the organic market was quite exciting.
“…because we can feel a strong, comforting affinity with the farmers who produce these products and also because the products are much healthier than the non-organic ones,” she said.
She said she heard about the organic food market from a friend who was a staffer at a local agriculture-based non-government organization.
Despite the fact that the market opens only on Saturdays, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., its customer numbers have kept growing. Naturally, the market’s management has started mulling the possibility of relocating to a much bigger space.
“We have searched and inspected several locations. Unfortunately, none has met our expectations,” the market’s manager Sayu Komang Sri Mahayuni said.
The market, which was established one year ago, was first conceived by social workers at Ubud-based NGO, IDEP (Indonesian Development of Education and Permaculture), following complaints from organic farmers that they had nowhere to sell their produce.
The IDEP has provided organic farming and permaculture training to farmers across the island.
“After receiving those complaints, the idea to establish a market came occurred to us. The market should be a place where the organic farmers could interact directly with their buyers, that was the initial concept of the market,” Mahayuni said.
Mahayuni and her colleagues in the IDEP then started contacting organic farmers from Baturiti in Tabanan regency and from Batur in Bangli regency, asking them to take part.
“The prices for the products are collectively determined by the farmers. We do not interfere in the pricing process,” she said.
One of the farmers, Ketut Adi, said the market was a wonderful idea. Prior to the establishment of the market, Adi sold his organic food in his store in Ubud.
“But the business was very slow at that time. The shop opened daily but I could only got Rp 400,000 per month,” he said.
Adi now earns up to Rp 2 million per month from the sales of his organic tea, cinnamon and honey at the market.
For now, the organic market has solved the farmers’ initial problem of finding a place to sell their products. However, one year after the establishment of the market two important problems have arisen.
“The first problem is maintaining a stable level of supply to meet the increasing demand,” Mahayuni said.
One solution to the problem, she said, was by increasing the number of the sellers at the market.
“Many farmers have expressed their willingness to join the market,” she said.
The solution, however, has its downside as it then exposes another problem; the market’s limited space.
“The current location is already too cramped to accommodate more sellers,” Mahayuni said.
She has tried to look for a new, more spacious place. She found a potential one in Sanur and approached the land owner but problem lingered.
“The place is way too expensive for us. Here we don’t have to pay a single penny, so we have to drop that idea to have the Sanur space. However, we already have this place. The Pizza Bagus management provides this space free of charge to us,” she added.
The second important problem is related to the lack of product quality control as none of the market’s current sellers have had their products certified by an authoritative body in organic farming.
“Personally I am not in favor of the certification procedure, particularly the ones that must be carried out by international, elitist organizations.”
“If a customer wants to check whether the products sold here are organic or not, the best way in my opinion is that we take the customer for a field visit to the farms that yield the products,” she said.
Published in The Jakarta Post