Debunking the organic myth
August 27, 2012
By Priyanka Praveen
While India’s pesticide market is projected to grow to $5 billion by the year 2017, we cannot ignore its effects on the health of the nation. As people become more conscious, there is a gradual shift towards healthier options. Hyderabad is now home to a new organic market with fruits and vegetables grown without pesticides, available at affordable prices.
An initiative of Hyderabad Goes Green (HGG), in association with the Centre for Sustainable Agriculture, this is currently run by two friends, Abhinav Gangumalla and Santosh Banpur. “We started HGG last year,” says Santosh, COO of the company. He adds, “With the rise in pesticide levels, we wanted to bring about a small change. We source our vegetables from the Enabavi farm in Warangal, which is Andhra Pradesh’s first chemical-free village.”
With a constant threat from pests, is organic farming a feasible option for farmers? “Organic farming has a slow start; the land takes at least three years to be able to produce a huge yield, but once it is converted, the produce is abundant and the soil becomes healthy too. Apart from that, organic pesticides are very cheap and don’t reduce the quality of the produce,” explains Abhinav. How has Hyderabad taken to organic vegetables? “It’s a myth that organic vegetables are expensive, and a chunk of society stays away from it. The vegetables here are priced anywhere from Rs 15 to Rs 35 a kg, which is very decent. On the first day, we had around 60 customers so that pretty much speaks for itself,” says Santosh.
Is there a difference in the taste? “Yes,” confirms Jacqui Rao, a pastor in the city. “The taste is distinct; you can tell that it’s fresh and healthy. And they stay that way for a week. In terms of size, organic vegetables are much bigger than the regular ones.” With onions priced at Rs 15 per kg and tomatoes at Rs 35, how affordable are organic vegetables?
Kalyani Gongi, an entrepreneur and a customer at the market, says, “I don’t think the prices are exorbitant. Anyway, health is more important than money. The quality of the produce is great and worth every penny, so I see no problem there.”
This initiative by CSA also helps farmers grow their crops by adopting non-pesticide management, and works by the Farmer 2 Cooperative model, which increases the farmer’s share in the products (70% as opposed to 30%). What’s more, organic vegetables are a welcome relief in a country where over 95% of farmers use harmful pesticides.