NE can be organic food hub

August 5, 2012 0 Comments

Manosh Das, TNN | Jul 31, 2012, 12.03PM IST

SHILLONG: The northeast, where very little amount of fertilizers and pesticides are used for agriculture, has immense potential for organic farming, agricultural experts and scientists have long pointed out. The region has the potential to carve a niche in the organic foods market once the production, certification and marketing of the produce are institutionalized.

“Due to lack of awareness about organic food, following the standards set by the national and international bodies, the production, though organic by default, has not been recognized through the process of certification,” says an agricultural scientist. “India’s share in the global organic food market is just about 0.18% and there is a vast potential to make the country a major player in the emerging agricultural export market. The northeastern region, where agricultural production is predominantly organic, could be instrumental in increasing India’s agricultural export to at least 1% immediately,” the expert opines.

Over the past decade, the international trade in organic foods has shown an annual growth of about 20% and is likely to touch $100 billion soon. “The need of the hour, therefore, is to make agriculturalists of the region aware of organic farming and its benefits. The farmers of the region are, by and large, engaged in organic cultivation, particularly in the upland ecosystem. They are, however, not much aware of the premium their products could fetch in the domestic and export market as organic food products are sold at 20-25% higher prices,” points out a vegetable wholesaler.

“The natural advantage of the region in the area of organic farming can be turned into real wealth by providing necessary infrastructure for storage, marketing and processing,” a scientist at the Indian Centre for Agricultural Research points out. “The northrastern Hills region of India represents a distinct agro-climatic zone occupying a total geographical area of 18,374 million hectare, which is 5.6% of the country. Out of 21 agro-ecological zones of the country, four zones, which represent wide variation of climate ranging from cold to warm pre-humid are covered exclusively in this region. The soils of the region are usually rich in organic matter,” he informs.

One of the 18 mega biodiversity hot spots of the world, all the botanical zones from tropical to alpine are found in the northeast due to its geographical situation, climatic variations and differences in altitudes. “Therefore, in the absence of major investments in the industrial sector in the region, agriculture has continued to remain the backbone of the economy of the northeast, which still awaits the advent of ‘Green Revolution’ to provide the much needed food security and impetus to economic growth,” says a professor at the North Eastern Hill University. “Stress should be laid on creating awareness on the growing potentiality of organic food and in devising effective mechanisms to provide the required knowledge of farming, giving necessary infrastructural support, market linkages and access to certification systems in this field in the northeast,” he emphasizes.

“It should be noted that the tradition or organically friendly cultivation methods of the farmers of the region is a unique feature still to be tapped to capture the growing market for organic good all over the world. It, thus, provides the North East with an enormous opportunity to bridge the gap between the agricultural produce and returns from it through organic farming,” he iterates.