Saaraketha FAQs

1. How do you guarantee that these are Organic Products?
All our products are certified by Control Union Certifications and that guarantees the integrity of the product. CUC is an international certification body. Certification is issued only after an audit by the CUC where they take soil samples, leaf samples water samples inspect the processes inspect systems and guidelines and checklists in place. All these samples are sent to Singapore for testing to see whether there are any residual traces, heavy metals and other chemicals.

Certification is a process which can take up to 3 years depending on a particular property having used chemicals before weaning themselves out of it, and the soils and all the other components need to be rid of, including any residual material which can take even up to 3 years.

Even if a property has stopped using any kind of these harmful substances these residue samples continue to be in the soil and plant leaf matter up to a period of 1 and a half to 2 years.

The certification body generally takes a 3 year period for conversion before they completely certify that a property is free of any harmful substances.

Control Union Certification is a very rigorous process It is tougher than going through ISO 14,000 or 22,000 and all our production facilities that we work with are certified and accredited by CUC.

There are rigorous audits and participatory guarantee systems and internal control mechanisms that need to be followed which are audited by the certification body annually.

While certification provides us the legal framework to do this we also have in our portfolio a range we call sustainable produce which are grown chemical free but have not yet received certification. There are some new suppliers who are in the process of being certified who have started the journey but have not yet been certified with a paper but whose product we call sustainably produced. But they're all grown organically.
2. What are sustainably grown products?
Sustainable grown food is food that is grown in an ecologically and ethically responsible manner. Sustainable food doesnít have to be complicated or expensive. Put simply, it is food which is grown and prepared with as little impact on the environment as possible, for a fair price, and which makes a positive contribution to our local economy, the environment and most importantly your health.
3. Why should I buy Sustainable ?
It Promotes Personal Health.
Sustainable farming focuses on raising food that is healthy for consumers. Industrially raised food is grown with many pesticides and chemicals and is processed with additives and preservatives. These toxins have been linked to a range of diseases and disorders including infertility and birth defects, and can potentially create damage to the nervous system and cause cancer. The cost to your health is incalculable - would you rather pay a hospital bill vs a few extra rupees spent on eating food which will help keep you away from hospital? Next time you go out grocery shopping count the hidden cost to your health and the health of your children.

It Tastes Good!
An added benefit of eating sustainably is that sustainably-raised food simply tastes better. Not so long ago, herbs and spices and sugar were used to enhance the flavor in our food. But in recent decades our taste buds have been corrupted through the use of cheap chemicals, salt and sugar to fill that role. We've forgotten how wonderfully delicious fresh food tastes as we've become acclimated to food thatís polluted with preservatives. The more you try it, the more you'll learn that sustainable, local food just tastes better.

It Promotes Public Health.
By supporting sustainable producers, you are promoting farming practices that do not endanger public health. Antibiotics are widely used in industrial livestock production, and there is a large body of evidence indicating that this excessive use is leading to antibiotic-resistant bacteria known as superbugs that threaten public health. Sri Lankan farmers are heavily reliant on subsidized fertilizer and the result? Polluted water ways, lost soil fertility, threatened eco systems, chemical laden fish and produce. Chemicals in our Vegetables and Fruits, arsenic in our rice, the water we drink. Remember we have to clean what we pollute - count the cost of public funds spent and the drain on the taxpayers wallet. Wherever unsustainable practice thrives it is a cost to public health. Think about it - These are all created in one eco-system and how we contribute, what we take from the earth to build our house, to the food we eat, to how we move around - everything is linked. These are simple reasons you should consider being sustainable.

It Supports Livelihoods and Entrepreneurship.
Creating Dignified Vocations. By eating sustainably, you're supporting a true Sri Lankan tradition - the small, independent family farmer. Family farmers are being forced out of business at an alarming rate despite 70% of our population being known for agricultural practices. Choosing Sustainable means you encourage the creation of Sustainable farms which are an integral part of the local economy, creating new jobs and investments in the community.

It Helps Protect the Environment.
Sustainable agriculture produces food that does not harm the environment. Industrial crop farming, including crops used for animal feed, are dependent on chemical fertilizers known to cause long-term depletion of organic matter, soil compaction and degradation of overall soil quality. Monocropping, using land for growing only one type of crop, not only reduces the genetic diversity of plants, but also makes plants more susceptible to disease, creating the potential for pests to easily destroy an entire crop. Industrial agriculture also consumes large quantities of fossil fuels due to the heavy use of synthetic fertilizer.
4. Where are your farmers ?
Our farmers are from all parts of Sri Lanka. We have upcountry farmers low country farmers we have rice farmers, spice farmers, vegetable and fruit farmers. There are 2 categories of farmers we have landed proprietors who have larger tracks of land 20 30 acres who are proprietary farmers who we have strategic partnerships with to grow dedicated products for us. They form a bulk of our supply chain, because for supply chain reliability and consistency we need to have volume and people who understand this.

We also work with smallholder groups which are clusters of individual farmers through another agency on the ground who manages these clusters. This process with smallholder farmers is far more challenging because you are trying to consolidate product, trying to manage 40 different individuals.

Reliability of the supply chain, consistency, quality all of these can have certain imbalances. In keeping with our philosophy we keep growing that network but to ensure practical volumes we also have proprietary farmers who work with us.
5. Are even the high grown products Organic?

This is the most challenging part of our operation. We have a very limited supply of High grown products because 95 or 98% of high grown products are heavily chemically induced. This is why we have a challenge with our high grown ranges. We continue to expand that range, we are going with a salad supplier, cabbage very limited supplier. Most of them proprietary farmers because traditionally all high grown products are heavily chemically induced. So Yes they are organic in our case, and Yes the sources we buy from are certified organic but that is the most challenging part for us.
How do you guarantee your farmers don't spray pesticides?
Because there are stringent participatory guarantee systems in place. There are audits and control mechanisms in place and there is third party inspection through the certification body that happens. And we have made it rewarding for them. It's more than policing them, we have made them realize it is actually rewarding, because we pay them a premium as opposed to conventional product and we also have a method of testing these products. In our initial journey we tested the products through the Industrial Training Institute (ITI) (www.iti.lk) to ensure our farmers don't step out of line. It was used as a deterrent measure so they know their products are tested.

It's a process of trust where we've created a community of people who understand and value sustainable practices and are being rewarded for it. So we have built and nurtured that trust and we tell them it's about them also contributing to uphold that trust.

No matter what control mechanisms you put in place there can be loopholes but it is the philosophy of trust that works for us. The trust our customer places in us and the trust we carry through to our farmers.


6. How do you protect your plants from insects?
Sustainable farmers leverage organic methods of Pest control alternatives and homemade remedies which include concoctions of neem Seed and various other herbs. They cross cultivate and engage in inter-cropping. Some farmer clusters even resort to certain traditional Kem Methods. For the Heirloom Rice cultivations they use neem, Ash and some use fly paper which is a natural resin gum which is strapped to strategic points for trapping pest. There is no 100% guarantee but it is the only method farmers use. This is also why organic products are not perfect. It doesn't look visually uniform or perfect. They might look cosmetically imperfect but they are far more superior in their nutritional content. Their flaws are due to their exposure to the elements of nature. But they might not look as beautiful as their chemical sprayed counterparts.
7. What is the manure you use?
The manure used for all our products is all organic manure. Compost, and rock phosphate are things the farmers use. Most of the manure is bio nutrients, they use green materials for nitrogen fixation, green leaves like gliricidia. They also use a whole range of concoctions that can keep insects away and keep termites away. They use it with organic inputs and compost which have to adhere to certification which does not allow the use of dung from hormone fed animals to be used as manure. The source of the dung has to be identified and it has to be kept mixed with other green materials until it properly turns into compost. It is all part of the certification process.

Farmers also do something called Vermi Compost where they use worm culture using Earthworms which are bred in a compost material such as a barrel with a tap at the end. The barrel is filled with compost material to breed worms who produce a highly nutrient enriched fluid that is the best manure for their crops. If you look at highly polluted pesticide-laden soil earthworms do not thrive in such soil. Earthworms thrive in clean chemical free soil as well as all the micro organisms in the environment that all contribute to soil health and overall fertility which is key to sustainable farming. Chemical Fertilizers kill all these organisms and leave the soil clinically supported like a patient on a drip with no natural mechanisms to support them.
8. Why are your products more expensive than other vendors?
This is a good question. You go out to buy organic and feel like you've spent a lot of money of fruits and vegetables don't you? And you wonder if it's worth spending so much for food. It's tempting to take the easy route and go buy non-organic foodstuff when "Money" is a factor. But first take a look at your family's medical bill and then your diet. If you continue to eat poor cheap unnatural and processed food you will still pay a higher cost than if you ate right in the first place. Food IS healthcare while medicine is Sickcare.

We are more expensive than our competitors because we are certified organic. We pay our farmers a premium. We give you a clean, sorted, graded product. It is triple washed and prepared, does not need to be washed again, even the raw produce is value added for your convenience, for your safety and wellbeing. So yes it is expensive because it's a lot more labour intensive than the conventional produce and also more prone to pest attacks and have lower yields. Still want to keep buying conventional ?
9. Home Delivery: Do we need to sign up as a member before we order?
No you don't. You can immediately start ordering online when you visit our Home Delivery page. You will be asked to register a username and password which we urge you to keep safely and use carefully to avoid having your account compromised. However if you choose to become members of our Facebook page you get access to some cool content from recipes to health tips to sustainability related events.
10. Home Delivery: How do we make the payments?
You can pay cash on delivery of your order and you can also pay online by credit card.

On the day of delivery you will receive an e-invoice in your email which takes you to a payment gateway where you can pay via your credit or debit card.
11. Home Delivery: Can you take in our orders over the phone?
Yes we can but please understand we process orders from about an average of 50 customers who each order about 15 products in one delivery cycle. When we process each order over the phone there maybe discrepancies in terms of weight, in terms of product, we may not be able to ensure 100% accuracy and verifiable information. Also please understand it places a huge burden on our little team where we would like you to use this tool we have developed for you since our frontend staff would be hard pressed to process orders if 50 or more customers call in every day.
12. Home Delivery: Why can't we get our invoice as soon as we place an order online ?

There are two things reasons for this. In the future we are looking to change this structure. Because these are perishables and fresh produce. For example we can't specify how much a mango would be how much a papaya would be. We know our range of weight can be from 600 grams to a kilogram. You as a customer may you order 1 kilo of papaya. Nature does not produce 1 kilo papaya in uniform size which means your papaya could 900 grams or 1200 grams. So we cannot invoice you at the point of order we can only confirm your order. Because it is at the time your order is packed that we would know the real weight. Also these are perishable products and we a dependent on external suppliers and a product that you order though we have it in our availability list when it gets to us it might not be in a quality that we are not comfortable to send to you. So we would rather disappoint you with unavailability than disappoint you with bad quality which means we can't give you an invoice because at the time we pack it might not be available or the weight maybe different to your original order.
We adjust it for physical weight for availability and then your order which may have included 14 products you may end up getting 12 products and your total net weight which might have been 5 kilograms you may end up getting 5.7 kilograms. This is why we cannot invoice you immediately after you order.
In future this is also an issue for us because we never get paid when you order we only get paid when we deliver. Most often due to busy lifestyles and other factors things slip through the cracks we don't get paid for 2 or 3 weeks and it burns our cash flows. In the future what we would ideally like to do is to have a fixed system where we get you to place the order and pay for that value and then either be credited to your credit card or what value that was over invoiced we either credit to your credit card immediately online even if you don't order with us next week we can credit the amount with the right invoice coming to you on delivery.


13. Can I have my product delivered to Good Market?
Yes you can but ideally we would like you to use the delivery channel we have prepared for you. www.saaraketha.com/shop is a fully fledged ordering system which handles your order, provides availability of our weekly list and schedules your delivery day according to where you live.

It is designed to make life easier for you and for our small team so we can bring the freshest produce to your door with the least hassle to everyone involved.
14. Why should I sign up for home delivery when I can come to the Good Market?
Because you have a far better range and a greater choice of both product and categories in our Home Delivery listing. There are certain products we cannot bring to the Good Market because they lie around the entire day not in ideal conditions. The Home Delivery product gets harvested, sorted, packed, and gets to you straight from our pack house to preserve the peak of freshness.
15. What is Heirloom Rice?
Heirloom Rice is like a family heirloom - these are seed banks which were nearly lost for our future generations as recently as 10 years ago most of these rice varieties were near extinction. These are rice varieties that are indigenous and only found in Sri Lanka. They are found nowhere else in the world. They are heirloom because they are handed down from generation to generation - They are rice varieties that Sri Lanka was renowned for at a period we were known as the "Granary of East". When our forefathers were known to be industrious and healthy these were the rice varieties we cultivated not the hybrid varieties we use today for convenience.

This is what nurtured our Sri Lankans. They are known for very specific medicinal properties, palliative and curative properties and a range of health properties.
Among all of them the most significant is that they are known to have the lowest Glycemic Index which is the sugar content in any carbohydrate type of product among any other rice variety in the world. Normal rice varieties have a GI or sugar content of around 70-80 these rice varieties are tested and are scientifically proven to have the lowest GI which is in the range of 30-40. So they're healthy, they're heirloom because they are traditional rice varieties that have been handed down from generation to generation, they are heirloom because they have been preserved. Today we have taken them and included 3 of our Heirloom rice varieties in the Global Ark of Taste which protects them for posterity.
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