More farmers in India are rooting for organic farming

March 22, 2013 0 Comments

Prudhvi Raju

March 20, 2013

The organic sector has seen growth in the last five years. Using bio pesticides in farming helps bring down the cost to farmers.

Organic living seems to be the new mantra and organic food is gaining ground not only as a viable and sustainable alternative for farmers but also as a healthy option for consumers. Earlier, organic foods were mainly cultivated for export, but recent trends show that the demand from villages and retail stores in cities, along with the benefit to farmers, are driving organic cultivation. Although, this is a good start, there is a growing need to educate farmers and government support is vital to substitute chemical-based farming.

Dr GV Ramanjaneyulu, executive director of the Centre for Sustainable Agriculture, feels that it is important for farmers to opt for a sustainable approach. “Either the farmer has to produce bio-pesticides locally or buy them from companies. The latter will increase the market dependence and costs will not reduce. It is important for farmers to be independent,” he says.

He advises farmers to adopt the agro-ecological approach before choosing the crop. This depends on the soil and water conditions along with the local demand for the produce. For instance, in Guntur you can still find residues of pesticides in the soil that were banned 30 years ago. Chemicals and pesticides can also spread from neighbouring fields through water, air and soil. But with specific practices — like maintaining distance in organic cultivation — can bring down the residue levels. Farmers can opt for the incremental approach by which they abandon pesticides initially and follow it up with chemical fertilisers over time.

But one must not expect results immediately as the whole process takes place gradually. Any land can be converted over two to three years with this approach.

Although this process sounds tiresome intially, it actually helps reduce expenses over time.

“These methods not only help in ecological sustainability but also help bring down costs to farmers by a minimum of 10 per cent. Productivity can also be increased by around 10 per cent with good management techniques. If a farmer can get at least 10 per cent better price through proper distribution mechanisms, it will be beneficial,” says Dr Ramanjaneyulu.

The organic food sector has seen a rapid rise. In the last five years, it has grown at around 400 per cent in exports. However, growth in the domestic market is hard to calculate as it is largely an unorganised sector. Around five per cent of farms are certified as organic; but in reality this figure is around 30 per cent as many are into organic farming by default in the country.

With 70 per cent farmers still dependant on chemical farming, taking organic methods to the mainstream will only be possible with investment from the government. The price of organic foods can also be lowered if the subsidy provided on chemical fertilisers is given directly to the farmer. For instance, the government spends around `2,500 as subsidy on every bag of DAP fertiliser. Around six bags are used per acre of land and this costs the government around `15,000 for a single crop. If this subsidy is given to the farmer, he can spend it on organic fertilisers.

In the name of subsidies, the government is helping the industry and not the farmer. By subsidising chemical fertilisers, the government is directly responsible for spoiling the ecology, livelihood and health of cores of people.