It’s a $25 billion global market. And Maharashtra wants to ensure its farmers join the bandwagon too.
Taking a cue from the successful shift from conventional to organic farming across the world and the increasing demand for organic products, the state government is taking a keen interest in promoting organic farming.
As part of the Centre’s project, the state has set aside Rs 37.43 lakh to set up model organic farms and train farmers in the sector. It has also been encouraging farmers to produce seeds on their own and set up vermiculture projects.
The state is hoping organic farming will provide a long-term solution to troubled farmers in the state. "Organic farming helps increase productivity and reduce costs," Balasaheb Thorat, Agriculture Minister, told HT.
According to Thorat, nearly 5.5 lakh hectares of land in Maharashtra are under organic farming.
Sanjay Deshmukh, Chief Executive, National Organic Certification Association, Pune, said, “Cultivation of organic products is growing by about 25 per cent while the domestic demand is rising by 10 per cent,” Deshmukh said.
Mumbai has more than 10 organic product outlets, Pune has three, Nashik, Nagpur, Aurangabad and Parbhani have one each.
Deshmukh revealed that apart from organic fruits, vegetables and processed foods, the demand for organic cotton is very high. "The movement is increasing in Vidarbha where cotton is the main commodity. Even France, Germany and Japan have been showing keen interest in our organic cotton," Deshmukh said.
The state has involved non-government organisations (NGOs) in the project.
"Each NGO is given a target of converting at least 1,500 farmers in the village or area they work in," Deshmukh explained. "The state and Centre fund these projects."
Pune-based Institute of National Organic Agriculture (INORA) is working with 2,000 farmers in and around Pune district. “The idea is to convert an entire village and train them in organic farming,” said Manju Tadvalkar, Chief Executive Officer, INORA.
Tadvalkar said it takes at least two years for farmers to realise the benefits of organic farming. "By the second and third year, input costs can drop by 25 to 50 per cent," she said.
Tadvalkar believes it will take another two years for the state’s efforts in this direction to show.