Getting farmers’ markets in malls

April 24, 2017 / By  

A recent visit to the weekly farmers’ market for fruits and vegetables in Mumbai led me to consider the idea of using commercial space for these markets.

Since we are used to seeing a set of occupiers in a fixed set of space, our mind sometimes refuses to place them elsewhere. However, it’s worth trying to think differently.

The farmers’ market is an initiative launched by the Maharashtra state government a few months ago, with the pilot market held every Sunday in the parking lot of Vidhan Bhavan (Legislative Assembly) in Nariman Point, Mumbai. This experiment is the first of its kind in the state, undertaken after amending the Agricultural Produce Market Committee act , which cut down the supply chain, enabling farmers to sell their produce directly to consumers.

These weekly farmers’ markets have been well-received by consumers and the media. Some of the reasons for success include the freshness of the produce, and savings of 10 to 20 per cent for the consumer.

At present, the government is offering space for farmers to market their produce in cities either free or at a nominal cost, as it would otherwise be unaffordable for them. As per the Maharashtra State Agricultural Marketing Board, there are 40 such markets in Mumbai Metropolitan Region. With plans for expansion, more space is needed for these markets. This is where commercial real estate could have a role.

Offering retail space in malls for farmers’ markets

Many malls have space that could be used to organise these markets. A nominal rent could be charged here as farmers would be unable to afford them otherwise.

For instance, farmers could be allowed to set up their stalls during the weekend, when consumers do most of their shopping. Since existing markets have attracted strong demand, from consumers of all categories, the likelihood of these markets bringing in additional foot traffic to the mall is high.

A typical market comprises a minimum of 10 to 15 stalls, with each stall occupying approximately 100 to 150 sq ft. So, another advantage is that common areas, courtyards and parking lots can be used to accommodate them.

While some malls which house supermarkets that sell fruits and vegetables will not be able to accommodate them, other malls would be able to allot space. These are the lower quality malls struggling to keep up with those that are of a superior quality.

In a previous blog, we discussed the closure or conversion of space for other purposes in these struggling malls, some of which have vacancy rates as high as 40 per cent. The trial of farmers’ markets could be an opportunity to aid under-performing malls, particularly those in good areas. Unconventional strategies like this need to be considered in order to spur a revival.

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