Indian farmers have started to reap dividends from their budding interest in organic farming. It wasn’t long back, around seven years ago, when Indian farmers started to go organic.
In 2006-07, around 4.32 lakh ha reported organic produce — a large portion came from wild and non-agricultural land — which has now reached around 11 lakh ha, as per the recent report ‘The World of Organic Agriculture, 2013’ by FiBL and IFOAM (Research Institute of Organic Agriculture and International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements).
“The growth rate has reached around 20% per year, much higher than early expectations,” says Krishan Chandra, director, National Centre of Organic Farming.
The current market for organic foods in India is pegged at Rs.2,500 crore, which according to ASSOCHAM, is expected to reach Rs.6,000 crore by 2015.
It’ll still leave us at 1% of the global market. Thus, a huge potential is seen in the nascent Indian organic sector.
“Apart from states like Sikkim or MP, we’re seeing a rising interest in Gujarat, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, UP and Bihar,” says Chandra.
India outnumbers every other country in terms of organic producers -- with an estimated 5,47,591.
Organic products, which until now were mainly being exported, are now finding consumers in the domestic market.
“Even Tier II cities like Nagpur, Allahabad, Gorakhpur and Bhatinda show an increase in organic consumption,” says Sunil Kumar, AGM at Morarka Rural Research Foundation.
According to a survey of 1,000 consumers in ten cities done by Morarka Organic Foods, around 30% of Indian consumers preferred organic products and were even prepared to pay 10 to 20% more for them.
“Soil abused by chemical fertiliser excesses takes more time to produce comparable yields. Although, the cost of organic cultivation is much less, reducing cost incurred in purchasing costly inputs,” says Rohitashwa Ghakar, Project Head, International Competence Centre for Organic Agriculture.
* Regions reap their rewards
Growth: In UP, organic certification has gone up 36 fold in the last six years. The area under organic cultivation rose from 3,034 to 111,644 ha.
However, most of the organic farming is under a corporate-farmer contract. In Haryana, with hardly any takers till 2008, organic crops today are produced in more than 10,000 ha.
However, Punjab farmers have shown little interest. Of the total 4046 lakh ha of land under cultivation, only a minuscule portion 2104 ha is under organic farming.
Popular organic crops: Nearly 40,000 farmers in UP are growing organic wheat, rice, pulses, maize, and numerous herbs like Tulsi, Ashwagandh, Aloe Vera.
Haryana grows mostly vegetables like tomato, beans, or fruits like summer-squash, melons and mangoes.
“Although I sell the produce in Delhi, most of it goes to retail chains”, says Kanwal Chauhan, a farmer in Sonepat.
Challenges: Punjab State Farmers’ Commission consultant Dr PS Rangi feels that organic farming cannot feed the entire country. “One can grow vegetables or some wheat for personal use, but it can’t be grown on a large scale.” (By Pankaj Jaiswal, Rajesh Moudgil and Gurpreet Nibber)
Growth: In Kerala, at least 40 % of the farming is organic and the state is set to become the second fully organic state after Sikkim in 2016.
From 7,000 ha in 2007, the state has spread organic cultivation to 16,000 ha. In Andhra Pradesh another 11,500 ha would be added to the current 4273.54 ha this year.
In Karnataka, under the organic programmes of the state, an area of 1,18,676 ha has seen organic farming benefiting around one lakh farmers, said R Anuradha, agriculture department.
Popular organic crops: More than grains and pulses in Kerala organic farming is prevalent in cash crops, rice and vegetables.
In Andhra’s smaller towns and villages, people are slowly shifting to organically grown rice, ragi and other millets.
In Karnataka, crops like pepper, vanilla, coffee, nutmeg — which are not available in other parts of India — are a popular choice.
Challenges: In large tracts of the state’s tribal belt like Karnataka and AP, the farmers have engaged in slash/burn farming for generations and do not use any pesticide or fertilizer.
There have been no efforts to take this into account. (By Ramesh Babu, Ashok Das and Naveen Ammembala)
Growth: 30.92 lakh ha out of the net cultivated area of 43 lakh ha in the region have never seen the use of chemical fertilisers.
Almost 89% of farmland is categorised as organic in Mizoram, which passed an Organic Act in 2004. Whereas Meghalaya, a major strawberry producer, eyes a turnout of 500 MT from the current 250 MT a year.
Popular organic crops: Much of the area in the region is taken up by paddy, vegetables and fruits such as grapes.
The more prosperous farmers are into cultivation of medicinal plants, rose and anthurium, primarily for export.
“Mizoram has become the largest anthurium flower producer in India, owing to almost 98% of women anthurium growers,” said Samuel Rosanglura of Mizoram’s horticulture department.
Challenges: Most state governments promote vermi-compost and manure in the region since bio-fertilisers and bio-pesticides are difficult to access. (By Rahul Karmakar)
Growth: Gujarat has seen substantial growth in organic farming. It currently utilises around 42,000 ha under organic farming.
Maharashtra has been a front runner in organic farming with around 6.5 lakh ha under it, a huge rise from 18,786 ha in 2005-06.
In Rajasthan, there has been a ten-fold increase. From around 22,000 ha in 2005-06, the state has taken a leap to 2,17,712 ha.
Popular organic crops: Gujarat grows organic wheat, pulses and fruits like mango, chikoo and papaya. While cotton, turmeric, ginger are some crops grown in Rajasthan.
In Maharashtra, cotton, cereals, fruits dominate the organic farming scene. The state has initiated a pilot project to grow grapes that will produce organic wine.
Challenges: “Tribals who hardly use chemical fertilisers are left out of organic benefits,” says Kapil Shah of Jatan Trust that promotes organic farming. (By Mahesh Langa)