India ranks first in number of organic farmers, 9th in area; Sikkim becomes first fully organic state


New Delhi: India ranks first in the number of organic farmers and ninth in terms of area under organic farming. Sikkim became the first state in the world to become fully organic and other States including Tripura and Uttarakhand have set similar targets, according to an official statement.

North East India has traditionally been organic and the consumption of chemicals is far less than the rest of the country. Similarly, the tribal and island territories are being nurtured to continue their organic story.

With the aim of assisting farmers to adopt organic farming and improve remunerations due to premium prices, two dedicated programs namely Mission Organic Value Chain Development for North East Region (MOVCD) and Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana (PKVY) were launched in 2015 to encourage chemical-free farming, said Ministry of Agriculture & Farmers Welfare. 

With the simultaneous thrust given by the Agri-export Policy 2018, India can emerge as a major player in global organic markets. The major organic exports from India have been flax seeds, sesame, soybean, tea, medicinal plants, rice, and pulses, which were instrumental in driving an increase of nearly 50% in organic exports in 2018-19, touching Rs 5151 crore, it said. 

“Modest commencement of exports from Assam, Mizoram, Manipur, and Nagaland to UK, USA, Swaziland, and Italy have proved the potential by increasing volumes and expanding to new destinations as the demand for health foods increases,” it added.

According to the ministry, “About 40,000 clusters are being assisted under PKVY covering an area of about 7 lakh ha. MOVCD has brought in its fold 160 FPOs cultivating about 80,000 ha. For these clusters to become sustainable, it is important that henceforth market-led production starts in a contract farming mode, so that there is a ready market for the produce and industry also gets the desired quality and quantity when required. This is being pursued in right earnest with bulk buyers including the phtyo extracts industries.”

“The commodities with the highest potential include ginger, turmeric, black rice, spices, nutri cereals, pineapples, medicinal plants, buckwheat, bamboo shoots, etc. Supplies have started from NER including for Mother Dairy from Meghalaya, Revanta Foods and Big Basket from Manipur,” it added. 

A number of instances of farmer groups setting up markets in RWAs and selling directly is increasingly becoming common especially in Maharashtra and Karnataka where fresh organic produce is lapped up by the urbanites and farmers get a better bargain with no intermediaries. 

The ministry said that the presence of aggregators is imperative to bring about economies of scale for the small and marginal farmers, adding “the concept of market-led One district – One product is being encouraged, as also the development of more clusters in the vicinity of bigger towns where the appetite for organics will be much more.”

When the pandemic struck India, access to quality food was as high on priority for the country as much as health. Advisories to States on supporting direct marketing in order to decongest mandis led to a number of states issuing orders and amending legislations, thereby opening up market options to farmers. Working within the constraints posed due to disruption in logistics, access to regular markets, decrease in demand, number of States and clusters innovated and converted this crisis into an opportunity. 

The Green Caravan of Kohima created market linkages from all villages of Nagaland to urban areas for vegetables, handicrafts and handlooms (www.instamojo.com). There was online sale of fruits and vegetables by FPOs in Maharashtra and doorstep delivery in specially designed electric vans in Punjab. 

Manipur Organic Agency (MoMA) mobilised all the 15 FPCs of MOVCD to collect produce and transport to two organic wholesale centers at Sanjenthong and Chingmeriong in Imphal for onward delivery to consumers.

The organic e-commerce platform www.jaivikkheti.in is being strengthened for directly linking farmers with retail as well as bulk buyers. Infusion of digital technology in a much bigger way has been a major takeaway during the pandemic period and is a welcome norm here to stay, saving in expenses on travel, logistics, etc while not compromising in any way on the quality of information sharing. 

Natural farming is not a new concept in India, with farmers having tilled their land without the use of chemicals – largely relying on organic residues, cow dung, composts, etc since time immemorial. 

The philosophy underlying organic farming of integration of the elements – soil, water, microbes, and ‘waste’ products, forestry, and agriculture is the correct recipe for sustainable use of natural resources, which are coming under severe stress due to ever-increasing requirement of food and feedstock for agri-based industry. 

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Sagar Biswas

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